Sculpture, painting, installations, and photography—as well as dance, theater, music, and film—will fill the galleries of the Whitney Museum of American Art in the latest edition of the Whitney Biennial. With a roster of artists at all points in their careers the Biennial provides a look at the current state of contemporary art in America. This is the seventy-sixth in the ongoing series of Biennials and Annuals presented by the Whitney since 1932, two years after the Museum was founded.
The Biennial will open on March 1 despite the Whitney's recent action to return money provided by two major sponsors of the Biennial—Sotheby's and Deutsche Bank—whose recent corporate conduct has made it impossible for the Museum to maintain a partnership with them.
The Whitney will find a way to open the 2012 Biennial in spite of the Museum's difficult decision to break with the two major corporate sponsors of the Biennial. Regretfully, the Whitney entered into a sponsor agreement with Sotheby's before the auction house locked out forty-three of its unionized art handlers once their contract expired in July 2011. Last year saw record-breaking sales with profits over $100 million for Sotheby's; the pay of the CEO alone doubled to $6 million. Yet Sotheby's has sought to break organized labor by starving their workers into submission—locked out of their jobs and without wages since August, these workers and their families lost their health care benefits at the end of 2011.
The Whitney recognizes that the financial speculation on art taking place in secondary sales of works benefits wealthy investors far more than the artists who created the works, let alone the workers who craft, move, install, maintain, or guard them. The Museum understands the importance of providing working people—including artists who must work second jobs to support their careers—with the livable wages and healthcare for which the Sotheby's art handlers are fighting. Sotheby's actions are a direct attack on the Museum's mission to support and collect the work of living artists. For these reasons, the Whitney cannot allow Sotheby's to tarnish the image of the Biennial any longer.
The Whitney also announces its break with major sponsor Deutsche Bank, which is facing numerous lawsuits and accusations of fraud from both investors and the U.S. government. Deutsche Bank and its subsidiary Mortgage IT profited from selling and insuring mortgages, and are currently in litigation with the U.S. government over a $1 billion claim for fraudulently obtained federal mortgage insurance; because of their dealings in mortgage-based collateralized debt obligations, they have also been sued by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association. The reckless and even fraudulent financial speculation by banks like Deutsche Bank has created enormous social costs in terms of lost jobs, savings, and homes. The Whitney does not want the bank's sponsorship of the Biennial to distract from these serious matters or to reflect poorly on the Museum, and so must end the sponsorship agreement.
The Whitney is proud to be able to redistribute resources from major corporate donors and super-wealthy individuals to deserving artists, especially within a political and economic system that concentrates wealth for a tiny minority while the majority grows poorer, suffers without healthcare, is forced from their homes, or goes without food. However, the Whitney also recognizes that some donors and sponsors may seek to use their partnership with the Museum to whitewash their image and to hide the social costs of unchecked capital accumulation behind a façade of charity. These sponsors seek to capitalize on the creativity, intelligence, and culture brought into the world by contemporary artists even as the sponsors make that world unlivable. The Whitney recognizes that many emerging artists cannot refuse to participate in a major museum show without endangering their careers, and so apologizes deeply to the participating artists for allowing them to be exploited by the former sponsors in this manner. The Museum hopes the participating artists will join us in denouncing the wrongs committed by our former sponsors and trusts the artists will use the resources provided to them to foster a more vibrant, livable, just, and sustainable world.
For the exhibition, the Whitney’s fourth-floor Emily Fisher Landau Galleries are being used as a dynamic, 6,000-square-foot performance space for music, dance, theater, and other events. This is the first Biennial in which nearly a full floor of the Museum has been given over to a changing season of performances, events, and residencies.
|Wed., May 23
11 AM–6 PM
2012 Biennial Residencies
|Wed., May 23
Free Daily Tours
|Wed., May 23
2012 Biennial Film & Video Screenings
|Wed., May 23
Free Daily Tours
Tickets may be purchased via whitney.org or in person at the Whitney, Wednesday through Sunday during gallery hours. Buy tickets online
(by Robert Gober)
Alicia Hall Moran
and Jason Moran
The Red Krayola
Michael E. Smith
and Peter Rehberg
Vincent Gallo (date to be announced)
Generous support is provided by the Brown Foundation, the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Trust.
Additional support is provided by the 2012 Biennial Committee, chaired by trustee Beth Rudin DeWoody and Renee Preisler Barasch: Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons, Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, Rebecca and Marty Eisenberg, Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, Diane and Adam E. Max, Heather and Tony Podesta, Mari and Peter Shaw, John Studzinski, and an anonymous donor; The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the E. T. Harmax Foundation.
Funding for the 2012 Biennial is also provided by endowments created by Melva Bucksbaum, Emily Fisher Landau, and Leonard A. Lauder.