The 2017 Whitney Biennial Will Feature Edgy, Trending Artists in ‘Turbulent’ Times

The 63 participating artists look for their place in an unstable society.

The Whitney Museum of American Art. Photo by Ed Lederman, courtesy of the Whitney Museum.

The Whitney Museum has announced the list of 63 artists, duos, and collectives that will comprise next year’s Whitney Biennial. The first to be staged in the new Meatpacking District building, the Biennial’s artists will present work dealing with, according to the Whitney’s official announcement, “[t]he formation of self and the individual’s place in a turbulent society.”

A continued focus on emerging artists brings edgy, trending names like GCC and Puppies Puppies, balanced with fresh yet established artists like Jordan Wolfson, Frances Stark, and Anicka Yi, who recently won the Hugo Boss prize and will open a solo show at the Guggenheim in April 2017.

The biennial is curated by Christopher Y. Lew, associate curator at the Whitney, and independent curator Mia Locks, who visited 40 cities to finalize their selections. The 63 artists are a fair mix of men and women. 11 of the selections hail from outside the US, while 7 currently work outside it (with two—Chemi Rosado-Seijo and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz—from Puerto Rico). Of the 56 stateside artists, 41 are currently based in New York or California.

Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks share a common past at MoMA PS1. Photo: Whitney Museum of American Art via The Wall Street Journal

Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks share a common past at MoMA PS1. Photo: Whitney Museum of American Art via The Wall Street Journal

The last Whitney Biennial was in 2014. The museum’s move downtown delayed this edition one year, pushing the selection of the artists, by chance, to coincide with the surreal 2016 US election, making a dialogue with politics unavoidable. With the president-elect to be inaugurated on January 20, 2017, the March 2017 opening of the biennial will likely be informed by politics.

On one hand, much of the art world is shaken from the Brexit decision, as well as the results of the US election. But on the other hand, among the upper financial echelons, some feel optimistic about the art market under Trump. This disparity will be center stage, with some artists’ work speaking directly to it.

Activist artist collective Occupy Museums, for example, will present its ongoing project, “Debtfair.” An open call seeks artists in financial debt to answer a questionnaire on age, race, education, means of financial subsistence, and how their financial situation affects their art practice, an attempt, they say, “to expose the relationship between economic inequality in the art market and artists’ growing debt burdens.”

Or, there’s the collective Postcommodity, which built the opposite of Trump’s proposed wall in 2015—a two-mile string of balloons bisecting the US-Mexico border—and will show a related video installation.

But in all, the biennial is set to reflect more about society than just presidential politics (and hopefully it will make the best possible use of the museum’s prized 18,200 square foot, column-less exhibition space). It runs from March 17 – June 11, 2017.

See the full list of artists below:

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