Tiffany & Co. Just Bought the Whitney Biennial for $5 Million

The Whitney Biennial is now brought to you by Tiffany.

The new Whitney Museum of American Art (2014). Photo: Nic Lehoux.
The new Whitney Museum of American Art (2014). Courtesy of Nic Lehoux.

It’s official: the Whitney Biennial is now brought to you by Tiffany & Co.

With a $5 million gift, the high-end jeweler will be the lead sponsors for the next three editions of the contemporary art survey, through 2021. News of the sponsorship comes on the eve of the opening of the Whitney Museum of American Art‘s new Renzo Piano–designed building at the base of the High Line (see The Whitney’s New Meatpacking Home Opens May 1 and Whitney Hikes Entry Fees, Sells Advance Tickets to New Home).

“Tiffany, like the Whitney, was born of a spirit of innovation and devotion to creativity, so to partner with the museum at this exciting moment in its history, is significant for both these great New York City institutions,” said Frédéric Cumenal, Tiffany’s chief executive, in a statement. “Through our support of the Biennial, we are thrilled to champion the museum’s mission to give emerging artists and their work high-level exposure on a global scale, while continuing our century-old tradition of supporting cultural experiences that create meaningful conversations and bring new ideas in art, design, and popular culture to the forefront.”

“For more than eighty years, the Biennial has been a testament to the Museum’s commitment to contemporary artists and art-making,” added Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg in a statement. “We applaud Tiffany’s history of supporting American innovation and imagination, and look forward to this next exciting chapter of the Biennial in the Museum’s new building.”

The biannual art show is often controversial, and has been heavily criticized for its underrepresentation of woman and people of color. In 2014, one participant, a Brooklyn-based group of black artists known as the Yams Collective, withdrew in protest of “Donelle Woolford,” a fictitious black female artist presented by Joe Scanlan, a white male artist (see Joe Scanlan’s Collaborator on Controversial Whitney Piece Speak) and The Yams, On the Whitney and White Supremacy).

Though the museum’s inaugural programming has already been announced (see Whitney Museum’s Inaugural Show in New Home Spans John Sloan to Yayoi Kusama and Jeff Koons), the new Tiffany-sponsored biennial will be delayed a year, to 2017, as the curators adapt to their new surroundings.

In 2014, the Biennial was sponsored in part by BCBG MAXAZRIA and Deutsche Bank, with major support from Sotheby’s. Given the long-term nature of the Tiffany deal, it seems likely that the luxury jewelry and specialty retailer will receive greater saturation in the public consciousness past sponsors have received.

Tiffany’s support of New York art institutions extends to the Museum of the City of New York and the Museum of Arts and Design, and dates back to company founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, who was a founding trustee of the city’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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