Yesterday, the Whitney Museum released the artist list for its 2022 Whitney Biennial, curated by David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards. That biennial, titled “Quiet as It’s Kept,” is due to open on April 5, and will include an array of artists whose works “reflect these precarious and improvised times,” as the curators said in a statement. What should we make of the list, and what directions will this biennial take? To find out more, ARTnews crunched the numbers.
63: The number of artists participating in this year’s edition. That’s a bit less than the 75 who showed at the 2019 Whitney Biennial, but it’s exactly the same as the amount that appeared in the 2017 edition.
37: The percentage of artists who are 40 years old or younger at this year’s Whitney Biennial. This is an important number, and a strikingly low one, given that the Whitney Biennial tends to trend toward emerging artists. (By contrast, in the 2019 edition, 56 percent of the participants were 40 years old or younger.) This Whitney Biennial places a greater emphasis on mid- and late-career artists. Perhaps in a nod to this, the curators said in a statement that the 2022 biennial will be “deliberately intergenerational.”
25: The percentage of artists born outside the U.S. that are included in this edition. The curators have stated that part of their goal is to show “artworks [that] can complicate what ‘American’ means by addressing the country’s physical and psychological boundaries.”
59: The percentage of artists based in either Los Angeles or New York, the two biggest art centers in the U.S. New York remains the most well-represented city at the biennial, with 25 artists included who are based there.
16: The number of artists who’ve appeared in a Whitney Biennial previously, including Wu Tsang, who participated solo in 2012 but is this year included as part of her collective Moved by the Motion (which also includes Tosh Basco), and Raven Chacon, who is this year participating solo but was included in 2017 when he was a member of the artist collective Postcommodity. Also among the artists returning to the Whitney Biennial are Jason Rhoades, Nayland Blake, and Tony Cokes.
5: The number of Whitney Biennials Charles Ray has participated in, not counting this one. Ray, one of the most celebrated sculptors working in the U.S. today, is currently having a bit of a moment, with a modest survey having just opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as blowout exhibitions expected for the Centre Pompidou and the Bourse de Commerce in Paris later this year.
5: The number of artists who participated in the controversial 1993 edition of the Whitney Biennial who are returning in 2022. That edition has gone down in art history because its artists dealt explicitly with race, gender, and sexuality, and because white critics panned the show for it. Since then, it has come to seem like a prescient exhibition. Among those returning is Daniel Joseph Martinez, who famously created pins that collectively read “I can’t. Imagine. Ever Wanting. To Be. White” for the 1993 biennial, and Coco Fusco, who, with Guillermo Gomez-Peña, staged a performance in which she cast herself as an encaged “undiscovered Amerindian,” making a mockery of colonialism in the U.S. and beyond.
2: The number of times Kandis Williams’s name appears on the artist list. This may seem strange until you realize that one of those times is for Cassandra Press, the publishing imprint that Williams founded in 2016. That both Cassandra Press and Williams herself will be showing at the biennial is further evidence that she’s on a hot streak. Williams won a $100,000 award for her participation in the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. biennial last year, recently staged a critically acclaimed exhibition at the newly opened 52 Walker gallery in New York, and just got her work acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. Cassandra Press, for its part, is a participant in the current edition of Greater New York and recently published a zine with MoMA that features writings by Saidiya Hartman.
18: The number of artists whose work is owned by MoMA, whose collection is by some measures considered to be the definitive one for modern and contemporary art. This is an unusually high number for the Whitney Biennial, whose participants are typically in the early stages of their career and therefore often not established enough to have been noticed by MoMA.
5: The number of dead artists in the 2022 Whitney Biennial, among them Theresa Hak Kyung Cha and Jason Rhoades. There’s a recent tradition of deceased artists appearing at major biennial-style shows, and MoMA PS1’s 2021 Greater New York quinquennial drew criticism from some for the amount of artists it included that weren’t alive.
6: The number of artists with representation by David Zwirner, Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, and Pace Gallery, the world’s four biggest galleries. Among those artists is Rick Lowe, who just signed with Gagosian last year after appearing in the gallery’s Antwaun Sargent–curated show “Social Works.”
1: The number of artists with an HBO show. That artist would be Terence Nance, whose TV series Random Acts of Flyness won critical acclaim when it debuted in 2018.
0: The number of artists who will also participate in Documenta 15, which overlaps with the Whitney Biennial this year. (So, too, does the Venice Biennale, although that artist list is still unannounced. Hold on to your hats for this rare convergence of biennials.)
Unknown: The number of artists who will produce NFTs for the biennial.