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New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art.
New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art.

Whitney Biennial Deferred to 2022

The Whitney Biennial, widely considered the United States’ premier survey of contemporary art, has been postponed by a year due to the pandemic. Instead of next spring, the edition will now take place from April 2022 to August of that year, the Whitney Museum announced on Thursday.

The museum, which reopened on September 3, plans to prioritize exhibitions delayed due to the pandemic, such as Salman Toor’s first solo exhibition (opening November 13), a midcareer survey for Julie Mehretu, an exhibition featuring the Kamoinge Workshop (opening November 21), and a highly anticipated Jasper Johns retrospective (pushed from September 2020 to September 2021). 

Like most New York art institutions, the Whitney headed into a monthslong closure this March in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has completely upended the international art calendar; Italy’s Venice Biennale, France’s Biennale de Lyon, and Cleveland’s Front International Triennial have all rescheduled their in-person events from 2021 to 2022. The virus has also drastically altered artists’ routines and resources. “We wanted to make sure artists had the space and time they needed to do their best work,” Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s senior deputy director and chief curator, told the New York Times.

The postponement follows a string of delayed or disrupted Whitney Biennials; the exhibition’s seventy-eighth installment was moved from 2016 to 2017 to accommodate curators adjusting to its new building downtown, and last year’s edition was roiled by protests against Warren Kanders, the museum’s ex–vice chair and the owner of Safariland Group, a manufacturer of tear gas and other weapons. (Kanders announced this June that he would divest the company of its “crowd-control solutions.”)   

The 2020 Whitney Biennial is being organized by Adrienne Edwards and David Breslin, relative newcomers to the Whitney curatorial staff. Breslin served as curator and head of the museum’s collection since 2016 before recently shifting into a role as the museum’s first director of curatorial initiatives. Edwards is the Whitney’s curator of performance. Prior to joining the museum in 2018, she worked as a curator of Performa and as curator-at-large for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.