What would the landscape look like?
July 15, 2019
The first Whitney Annual in 1932 was transgressive. The museum was a one-year-old fledgling, set in a rowhouse on West Eighth Street. Its founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, was a collector and heiress, but also a serious sculptor. Invited artists chose what work they showed.
In 1973, the exhibition became a Biennial, and its history is the history of American modern and contemporary art. Or, at least one version of that history: one centered in New York City, one heavily white and male. That is no longer the case. This year, a majority of the show’s artists are women, and they are racially and ethnically diverse. New York, however, remains home to nearly half of them.
Until 1975, the exhibition catalogs listed the addresses of the artists who were included each year. Mapping these locations tells a story of influence and power — but also one of friendships and creative communities, of housing prices and economic change, of landscape and light. Here are some of its facets.