Most culture-gazing New Yorkers know we are just one week away from a major opening at the Whitney Museum of American Art. A far smaller slice of the city’s population is aware that a second Whitney opening is now on the horizon, as well. Let us explain!
In one corner we have, yes, the Whitney Museum’s Biennial, opening to the public on Friday, May 17. In the other corner we have our challenger: What once began as the Whitney Houston Biennial in 2014, in opposition to the more established aforementioned museum exhibition, is opening its doors at La MaMa gallery on Great Jones Street in the Bowery on Sunday, May 19. They are very different events. Here’s what you need to know:
How Did We Get Here?
The Whitney‘s Biennial is an opportunity every other year for one of the reigning institutions of the art world to showcase contemporary living artists. It’s a big who’s who, and, for art aficionados, it has been a huge deal since it began in 1932. A younger addition to the scene, the Whitney Houston Biennial (known more officially as the Every Woman Biennial—get it?) began in 2014 as a one-night celebration of female artists in protest of the Whitney Biennial and its selection, overwhelmingly, of dudes. The scrappy underdog has something to prove! Better yet, this year the show is titled “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and we’re already swooning.
Mark Your Calendars
The Whitney will be celebrating its showcase all summer. Its Biennial won’t close until September 22, meaning you have plenty of time to schedule it around your summer plans! The Whitney Houston Biennial, however, will burn bright and be gone all too soon (much like the namesake Whitney herself): After the opening reception, the gallery show will stay open for 10 days before opening another installment of the show in Los Angeles—and, hey, we’re in L.A., too!
Who Is Showing?
Chelsea’s Whitney will feature the work of 75 American artists and collectives. Curators for the exhibition have been traveling around the country for the past year in search of art they consider groundbreaking—like a cooler Antiques Roadshow. The Every Woman Biennial will feature the work of 600 female artists in its two shows combined. Aside from a shared name, these shows have very little in common and, honestly, we’re excited for both! Add these to your calendar, because it’s finally the season to go outside, grab a bite, and enjoy what this city has to offer—before hiding inside an air-conditioned museum!