The Whitney Biennial 2019: Playing it Safe this Year?

The Whitney Biennial, on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art since 1932, distinguished by controversial resistance art, presents mostly safe selection of works.

When the doors for the show opened last Friday and the first thing the public saw was a snowman painting by Calvin Marcus, they considered it an underwhelming statement from arguably America’s most politically charged art event.

Installation view of the 2019 Whitney Biennial, with Simone Leigh’s sculpture Stick, 2019, and Janiva Ellis’s painting Uh Oh, Look Who Got Wet 2019. Maximiliano Durón for ArtNews.

The Whitney Biennial has always been a target of critics. Since 1944 when it was criticized for having too much “fantasy art”, and in 1946 it was qualified as too “overwhelmingly modernist” for including too much abstraction. In the late ’80s, the public didn’t like that female artists accounted for only 24% of the exhibition and in 1993, it was accused of being “too political”.”

This edition is more of a “beat around the bush” version, or as one critic calls it, an “elegant but safe portrait of right now”. –  Nadja Sayej, The Guardian.

Curators Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta. Photograph: Scott Rudd

Since the beginning of Trump’s Administration in 2017, this will be the first Whitney Biennale to be presented. But despite slightly touching political issues, there aren’t radical responses in the show.

Curators Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta have selected 75 artists and collectives —more than the 63 selected in 2017. Nearly three-fourths of those participants are 40 or younger, more than half are non-white, half are women, and quite a few are among the most closely watched artists of the present moment. (Russet, Andrew. “Soft Power: The Whitney Biennial Is an Elegant But Safe Portrait of Right Now.” Link )

A Tour of the 2019 Whitney Biennial in 20 Photos