Whitney Museum of Art Essay

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The Whitney Museum of American Art has often been referred to a citadel of American Art, partially due to the museums façade, a striking granite building (Figure 1), designed by Bauhaus trained architect Marcel Breuer. The museum perpetuates this reference through its biennial review of contemporary American Art, which the Whitney has become most famous for. The biennial has become since its inception a measure of the state of contemporary art in America today.
Since the Museum's opening in 1931, the collection has grown to more than 12,000 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and photographs, representing nearly 2,000 individual artists and providing the most complete overview of twentieth-century American art of any museum in the
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For example, in the 2004 biennial their was 113 artists shown, consistent with the 2000 show of around 103 artists. The Whitney seems determined to include as much art as possible that can fit in their relatively small sized museum in order to better reflect the condition of the art scene in contemporary America.
To fully understand the role of the biennial today, we must look to its past. The earliest Biennials were assembled informally; easy groups of artists and museum personnel made the selections. Most of those in the show lived in New York City, although many had originally come from elsewhere. In 1937, the format was changed and the exhibitions became Annuals, with one year for painting, one for sculpture and various media. Some years, a single Whitney curator chose pieces; sometimes an outsider was added. In 1973, they went back to Biennials. Today the tradition remains the same as was begun fully in 1973. Increasingly in current shows curators search out a wide range of ethnic and gender varieties to fully grasp the breadth of American culture that is represented in current art work. Their has been much criticism of the Whitney and their exclusion of non-American artists. There are sections of critics who believe that the Whitney is only offering a narrow point of…