The Whitney Museum of Art has had an extremely fraught and eventful year. Though the institution reopened its doors to the public on September 3rd, they announced on Thursday that the 2021 edition of the Whitney Biennial has been postponed until 2022 in order for artists and the museum to get all their ducks in a row. Other shows at the Whitney that had to be postponed or reorganized due to the pandemic will be prioritized. These shows include the artist Salman Toor’s first solo exhibition and an exhibition on the Kamoinge Workshop, a collective of 1960’s Black photographers which was scheduled to go on display in July.
The Whitney may also be taking a moment to reorient itself after a disastrous incident this summer wherein an upcoming exhibition that was to be called “Collective Actions: Artist Interventions in a Time of Change” was canceled after the featured artists, who were not told in advance that their work would be included in the show, spoke out in outrage. See In Black, the artist collective that the Whitney had purchased artwork from for the exhibition at extremely discounted prices, spoke out at the time to condemn the museum for its haste in putting the exhibition together.
Additionally, 2019’s Whitney Biennial was also disrupted due to artist pushback: eight artists formally requested that their work be removed from the exhibition due to the now-notorious tear gas affiliations of former board member Warren B. Kanders. It seems that the Whitney Museum of American Art, in particular, has stood out as a lightning rod for the numerous American problems that remain so frustrating to artists, museum attendees and administrators. When the 2022 Biennial finally opens, it’ll be interesting to see if it’ll be able to play out without incident. History, unfortunately, has a tendency to repeat itself.