Greatest Snits: Biennial Stars (and Detractors)

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney opens the Whitney Studio Club in Greenwich Village. It houses small, annual exhibits that serve as prototypes for later Biennials.

The Whitney Museum opens at 10 West 8th Street.

The first Biennial features Georgia O’Keeffe’s Farm House Window and Door—and the exhibition debut of Edward Hopper. “No more telling evidence of the deplorable state of American art has ever been assembled,” says the New York Herald Tribune’s critic.

The Biennial becomes an annual show of separate media: painting in the fall, sculpture in the spring.

Closed pending (failed) negotiations to merge with the Met, the Whitney opens just for the Annual.

Jackson Pollock’s debut in the Annual.

The Whitney relocates to 22 West 54th Street.

Philip Guston’s Dial appears in the Annual.

Jasper Johns’s first appearance in the Annual, with Two Flags.

Hopper’s iconic A Woman in the Sun appears.

The present Whitney opens at 945 Madison Avenue.

Warhol’s Annual debut, with Holly Solomon: 9 sections.

Oldenburg’s iconic Giant Soft Ketchup Bottle With Ketchup makes its appearance.

The Annual becomes the Biennial again. “A kind of visual rubbish designed with the express purpose of referring us to ‘ideas’ about art.” —Hilton Kramer in the Times.

Video art is introduced—and curators show only artists who’ve never been in a Biennial or haven’t had a New York solo show in the past decade. “Boring, Childish, Awful”: Newsday.

Film is introduced.

Julian Schnabel’s Biennial debut, with Foufi Nouti in Hell and What to Do With Corner in Madrid. Kramer calls show “extremely boring” and “occasionally repulsive.”

Debuts of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, and Cindy Sherman—plus an unprecedented number of good reviews.

Jenny Holzer’s iconic Unex Sign #1 (Survival Series) appears. “The worst [Biennial] in living memory,” says Time’s Robert Hughes.

Jeff Koons makes his Biennial debut with the sculpture One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank.

The “political Biennial.” Visitors receive I CAN’T IMAGINE EVER WANTING TO BE WHITE buttons. The Nation’s Arthur C. Danto responds, “I can’t imagine ever wanting to have had anything to do with the 1993 Whitney Biennial.”

Klaus Kertess curates the “return to painting” Biennial. “I like this one,” says Michael Kimmelman of the Times, “despite the … occasionally pallid choices.”

1997 The first time an outside co-curator is brought in, Louise Neri of Harper’s Bazaar. Critics yawn. Ditto collectors: “I haven’t seen anything that makes me angry,” says Eli Broad.

Internet art (below, work by Fakeshop) is introduced; Lisa Yuskavage and John Currin also show. But overall, “a triumph of mediocrity,” says Jerry Saltz of the Voice.

Heavy on architecture (pictured, work by Javier Cambre) and dangerously unfocused, cry critics. “This show often defines art so broadly, and so laxly, that the art all but disappears,” says Roberta Smith of the Times.

A generally well-received (if vaguely idea-less) Biennial, concentrating on artists not themes. “It’s been a difficult two years in the world,” says co-curator Debra Singer. “Maybe people were tired of beating up on the show.”

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Greatest Snits: Biennial Stars (and Detractors)