The All-Female Whitney Houston Biennial Is Back and Bigger Than Ever—and It’s Going Bi-Coastal

This year's edition of the alt-biennial is titled "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."

The 2017 Whitney Houston Biennial. Photo by Liz Liguori courtesy of the Whitney Houston Biennial.
The 2017 Whitney Houston Biennial. Photo by Liz Liguori courtesy of the Whitney Houston Biennial.

When the Whitney Museum of American Art unveils its 2019 Whitney Biennial in May, artist Christine “C” Finley will once again stage a rival event focusing exclusively on women-identifying artists: the Whitney Houston Biennial, now in its third edition, opens the same day as the museum’s highly anticipated survey of the best in contemporary art in the US.

Finley launched the Whitney Houston Biennial in 2014 as a one-day event. She was inspired by the anemic ratio of men to women in that year’s Whitney Biennial, which was only 32 percent female. The Whitney Biennial took 2016 off in preparation for the museum’s move to the Meatpacking district, but when it returned in 2017, its Whitney Houston counterpart was right there with it, staging an expanded two-week event.

Each edition of the exhibition has been titled after a hit single by the late singer Whitney Houston, who died in 2012 (and inspired a namesake Chicago biennial that year). After “I’m Every Woman” and “Greatest Love of All,” the exhibition returns this year with “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” its most ambitious outing to date, opening at separate venues in New York (in May) and Los Angeles (in June).

Image courtesy of the Whitney Houston Biennial.

Image courtesy of the Whitney Houston Biennial.

This year’s official Whitney biennial features 38 women to 32 men, plus one collective of two women. Still, Finley still thinks that the art world can to better—the Whitney Houston Biennial features an astounding 400-plus women, plus a film festival component with 100 movies about female artists, curated by Assal Ghawami. (The filmmakers aren’t all women, but each piece has a strong female lead.)

“The goal to develop a heightened consciousness in the art world favoring encouragement, connection, inspiration, and love,” Finley told artnet News in an email. “‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ is our rallying cry which aims to bring together many creative voices to sing a collective song that celebrates the contribution of female artists and marks a moment in our communal trajectory.”

The celebratory affair will kick off on with a Whitney Houston flash mob dance performance led by a top notch impersonator of the singer, Kevin Smith Kirkwood. Participation will be open to the public, with registration beginning in April. And when the biennial moves to the West Coast, it will play host to performances from local girl bands.

In New York, the show will take place at the East Village art space La MaMa Galleria, 47 Great Jones Street, May 19–29. In LA, the show goes up at a location TBA, June 2–12.


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