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Whitney Biennial postponed until 2022
The Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan, March 5, 2020. The Whitney Biennial that was scheduled for spring 2021 has been postponed for a year, the museum said on Oct. 1, months after the pandemic interrupted its exhibition schedule and cast a long shadow of uncertainty. Jeenah Moon/The New York Times.

by Julia Jacobs

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- The Whitney Biennial that was scheduled for spring 2021 has been postponed for a year, the museum said Thursday, months after the pandemic interrupted its exhibition schedule and cast a long shadow of uncertainty.

Every two years, the Biennial takes over much of the Whitney Museum of American Art with a survey meant to reflect that social, political and cultural moment.

But the museum, which was closed to the public for nearly six months, was forced to reassess, said Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s senior deputy director and chief curator.

Another reason for the postponement, he said: The Biennial curators heard from artists that the pandemic had stymied their work, limiting access to studio space and tools that they needed to make their art. “We wanted to make sure artists had the space and time they needed to do their best work,” Rothkopf said.

The Biennial is now slated for April through August of 2022.

Organizing the exhibition also involves artists traveling to the museum and curators making trips to the artists’ studios, which has also been complicated by the pandemic.

It is not unprecedented for the Biennial to be thrown off schedule. The Whitney postponed what would have been the 2016 Biennial to 2017 so curators could adjust to the new building downtown. And after the 1997 Biennial, there was not another one for three years because the museum had wanted to make room for a lengthy exhibition called “The American Century” in the run-up to the turn of the millennium.

When drawing up the new exhibitions schedule, which the museum also announced Thursday, Rothkopf said the Whitney had prioritized the shows that were postponed, like Salman Toor’s first solo exhibition at a museum, which was to start days before the shutdown in March. Ultimately, the museum, which reopened Sept. 3, said that it did not have to cancel any exhibitions because of the pandemic.

To adjust to the reduced crowds, the museum has also lengthened the duration of the exhibitions to make sure that people have more of a chance to see them, Rothkopf said. Right now, museums in New York City are allowed to reach only 25% capacity and must use a timed ticketing system.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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