Earlier this week the Whitney released their highly anticipated artist list for the 2014 Biennial, announcing the lucky 103 artists whose work would be featured in the museum's epic exhibition.
The hefty artist list, curated by Stuart Comer of MoMA, Anthony Elms of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia and Michelle Grabner of the School of the Art Institute, Chicago, was hailed as "one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years" by Whitney Chief Curator Donna De Salvo. But just how diverse is it?
i take back all of my @whitneymuseum excitement. did a count 9/103 artists are black... NINE. and one is a fictional black person BYE.— kim drew (@museummammy) November 15, 2013
Kim Drew first caught our attention on Twitter, calling out the fact that only nine of the 109 artists represented (not including the artist collectives, of which there are a few) are black. That's also including fictional artist Donelle Woolford. That's 8.2%. Pretty abysmal.
We decided to dig a little deeper and break down the stats of the Whitney artist list. We found 48% of the participants to be white men and 29% to be white women. Furthermore, 7.4% of artists represented were of Asian descent, 3.7% were Latino and 1.8% hailed from the Middle East (approximately 20% of artists were born outside of the United States). And the total percentage of female artists? Thirty two.
Well, there you have it. Though this artist crew may indeed be "one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years," it's still not all that diverse, especially given the fact that some of this year's best group exhibitions were centered around African American artists, including The Shadows Took Shape, 30 Americans and Radical Presence.
Of course, the discussion shouldn't revolve entirely around percentages, but also around the artwork -- and thus the experiences and perspectives -- that are made available to a wide range of viewers. As Jillian Steinhauer wrote in Hyperallergic: "The goal is not tokenism or quotas. It is inclusion, imagination, creativity, and some legwork."
Without consideration, however, we get New York Times art critics making comments about "the nature of the art that women tend to make" and lists of the greatest living artists that are all white. Hopefully there won't be another article of this nature come the 2016 Biennial. We're not a fan of all the counting either.
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Born in 1986 <a href="http://jacolby.com/home.html">Satterwhite</a> combines video, performance, 3D animation, fibers, drawing and printmaking to explore memory, desire and heroism. His most recent exhibition repurposed drawings and songs from his mother, who battles with schizophrenia, to create new narrative possibilities. Still from "Reifying Desire 5", 2013. Courtesy of Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.
Sondra R. Perry
Born in 1986 <a href="http://cargocollective.com/sondraperry">Perry's</a> digital works combine video, sound and photography with everyday materials from hair to yams. Her works explore desire, power and performativity and their abilities to mutate our historical memory. Black Cloud #1 2010 Courtesy of the artist
Born in 1974 <a href="http://davidcastillogallery.com/xaviera-simmons/">Simmons</a> was born in and currently lives in New York. Her work layers photography, sound, sculpture, video and performance to explore and challenge our assumptions about time, place and narrative. One Day and Back Then (Standing) by Xaviera Simmons, 2007
Born in 1988 <a href="http://www.awolerizku.com/">Erizku</a> reworks art history's classic portrayals of women by scouting models off the street and having them sit for classical portraits, retroactively adding diversity to the artistic cannon with style. Digital chromogenic print Girl with a Bamboo Earring, 2009 50 x 65 inches Courtesy of artist
Born 1980 <a href="http://www.matthewthomasart.com/">Thomas'</a> work explores luxury goods, African American gender interactions and digital courtship in his works, which he compiled in the eBook "<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/love-sex-and-drunk-texts/id573687118?mt=11">Love, Sex and Drunk-texts</a>" “Inheritance”, Digital Drawing, 2012 From the artist's e-book “Love, Sex & Drunk-texts (2012)
Born 1984 Pendleton uses fragments of language to incite dialogue between creative and political expression, using the conceptual manifesto he calls Black Dada. "Black Dada is a way to talk about the future while talking about the past," <a href="http://adampendleton.net/wp-content/media/Greater-New-Yorkers-Adam-Pendleton.pdf">he explained.</a> "It is our present moment." Larry Hinton (white), 2012 silkscreen ink on Formica panel 10' x 2', four panels Courtesy of Pace Gallery
Hank Willis Thomas
Born in 1976 <a href="http://hankwillisthomas.com">Thomas</a> is a photo conceptual artist whose works address race and identity in history and pop culture. I Am A Man, 2009 Installation View, Baltimore Museum of Art.
Born in 1985 <a href="http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/events/16232">Beasley</a> works in sculpture, painting and performance to explore our perceptions of space and constant negotiations with our own identities. Untitled (cranial brush), 2011 (installation shot) Courtesy of The Butcher's Daughter Gallery, Ferndale, Michigan
Born in 1982 <a href="http://www.jamearichmondedwards.com/">Richmond-Edwards</a>' multimedia paintings combine childhood memories and bold, ornate patterns to craft complex depictions of women. Jamea Richmond-Edwards, 'It Could be a Sad Story' Courtesy of Galerie Myrtis
Nina Chanel Abney
Born in 1982 <a href="http://www.ninachanel.com/">Abney's</a> paintings capture the maddening information overload of the internet in bright colors and flattened forms. Race, sex, violence and ritual interact freely with celebrity gossip, advertisements and folklore. Nina Chanel Abney, "Law and Order", Acrylic on canvas, 65 1/2 x 74 1/4", 2010 Courtesy of Kravets|Wehby Gallery, Private Collection New York
Akosua Adoma Owusu
Born in 1984 <a href="http://akosuaadoma.com/">Owusu</a> uses film to open dialogue revolving around racial discourse, community and complexity. Her works balance racial stereotypes and unconventional contradictions to illuminate the universal journey to find oneself. Film still from 'Kwaku Ananse.' The film is on commission from the Focus Features Africa First Short Film Program. It will premiere world-wide in competition at the Berlinale in February. Courtesy of the artist
Born in 1987 <a href="http://www.samvernon.com/">Vernon</a> re-imagines questions of race, sexuality and historical memory through the lens of ghost stories and science fiction. Her imaginative installations and drawings create an alternate world where the personal and the supernatural are closely entwined. How Ghosts Sleep (haunted house) 2010 Smithy‐Pioneer Gallery Cooperstown, NY Courtesy of the artist
Born in 1981 <a href="http://alexandriasmith.com/">Smith's</a> drawings and paintings play with cultural and sexual identity through the lens of adolescence. Her depictions pinpoint moments in childhood when understandings of sex, taboo and identity begin to take shape. "go run tell dat" collage on board 16 x 20in. 2012
Born in 1987 <a href="http://caitlincherry.com/">Cherry's</a> works combine painting, sculpture and ready-made objects to explore the tenuous and sometimes destructive relationship between them. The Federal Reserve Bank of New Yawk, 2 painting installation with Super Premium (Silver Coins), 2012, oil on canvas mounted on custom chopper bicycle with handheld projector, 90 x 70 x 90 inches Defection and the Undying Affliction (Gold Bars), 2012, oil on canvas with projection, 98 x 74 inches Courtesy of the artist
Born in 1977 <a href="http://www.jaysonmusson.com/welcomemat.html">Musson's</a> artworks range from dreamy canvases of cut-up Coogi sweaters to cartoonish depictions of Barack Obama. But what truly made art worlders fall madly in love with Musson is his YouTube alter-ego <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/HennesyYoungman">Hennessy Youngman, </a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/23/huffpost-arts-interviews-_n_1223839.html">through which serious criticism flows with a sick beat.</a> Jayson Musson Nutmeg, 2012 Mercerized cotton stretched on linen 96 x 72 x 2 inches (243.8 x 182.9 x 5.1 cm) (JMu 2) Courtesy: the artist and Salon 94, NY
Born in 1985 <a href="http://www.theprogressoflove.com/?p=193">Odutola</a> crafts intricately detailed portraits out of ballpoint pen and ink, turning the human face into an ornate visual landscape. Toyin Odutola All these garlands prove nothing XI, 2013 pen ink and marker on paper 14 x 17 inches Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Paul Anthony Smith
Born in 1988 <a href="http://thepaulsmithart.com/">Smith</a> works in painting, collage, mixed media and ceramics to create portraits spanning different eras, races and artistic styles. Many of Smith's works obscure skin and faces until they resemble ceremonial masks, as in the image pictured. Untitled picotage measuring 10x8 inches Courtesy of Scott Zieher
Maya Freelon Asante
Born in 1982 <a href="http://mayafreelon.com/">Asante</a> creates water-stained colored tissue paper sculptures that resemble quilts, geological forms and vivid visualizations of human experience. Maya Freelon Asante Time Lapse 2 Courtesy of Galerie Myrtis
Born 1984 <a href="http://jenniferpacker.tumblr.com/">Packer</a> uses portraiture to combine personal experience with the overarching narratives of art history, heightening contradiction and sadness in her style. Jennifer Packer "Mario II" 42" x 53" Courtesy of the artist
Born 1984 <a href="http://www.sadiebarnette.com/">Barnette</a> uses photography, drawing and objects to explore sub-cultures, codes and vernaculars as they appear on the west coast. 2012 (collage) Courtesy of the artist
Born in 1977 <a href="https://twitter.com/kenya_9">Robinson</a> is a community-taught artist and self-described "aficionado of all things blonde" whose work often explores the American consumerist landscape. She also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kenya-/">blogs for the Huffington Post Arts&Culture page.</a> Like A Woman In Love | A Collaboration with Artist Kevin Medal The text for this performance comes from CHOCOLATE MOODS, a collection of erotica in the Urban Fiction tradition.
Born in 1977 <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/kklinzy">Linzy</a> is a video performance artist who works within the framework of the soap opera to explore themes of family, religion, sexuality and homosexuality. He also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kalup-linzy/">blogs for the Huffington Post Arts&Culture page</a>. Melody Set Me Free (2012)
Born in 1970 <a href="http://www.derrickadams.com">Adams</a> is a multidisciplinary artist who explores the shape-shifting properties of pop culture through deconstructing and manipulating shapes, surfaces, textures and symbols. "Crossroads" 2012 C-Print 42 in x 36 in Edition of 5 Courtesy of the artist.
Kenyatta A. C. Hinkle
Born in 1987 <a href="http://kenyattaachinkle1.com/">Hinkle</a> incorporates historical research, cultural criticism and personal narrative to explore race and power structures and how they affect the formation of the self. Untitled (The Uninvited), 2012. Laser jet print on polyethylene film, acrylic paint, and India Ink.
Ebony G. Patterson
Born in 1981 <a href="http://ebonygpatterson.com/">Patterson</a> works with mixed media paintings, drawings and collages that explore the masculine through the traditions of Jamaican dancehall culture. Her works address the body and its role in gender performance, self-imaging and beauty ideals. Russian from the Out and Bad Series detail, 2012 Embellished photo tapestry with embellished shoes and other objects 78 x 54 inches, installation dimensions variable Courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago This piece will be on view in an upcoming group exhibition at MoCADA in Brooklyn, NY, opening February 14:
Wilmer Wilson IV
Born 1989 <a href="http://www.recurringman.com/">Wilson</a> constructs elaborate performance pieces that unfold over several hours, often involving repetition, ritual, everyday materials and his nude body. Study from My Paper Bag Colored Heart 2012 Archival pigment print 45 x 30 inches Copyright Wilmer Wilson IV, courtesy CONNERSMITH.
Malcolm A. Davis II
Born 1983 <a href="http://wellkonsidered.com">Davis</a> is a mixed media artist who works in painting, sculpture, set design and installation to create bold and instinctual expressions of his creative ideals. Michael Jackson 4' x 6', canvas 11/2012
Born in 1977 <a href="http://www.zacharyfabri.com/">Fabri</a> creates poetic short videos that challenge stereotypes regarding race and class. film still taken from the 16 mm film: Forget me not as me tether is clipped, 2012.
Dineo Seshee Bopape
Dineo Seshee Bopape the eclipse will not be visible to the naked eye (Installation View) 2010
Born in 1976 <a href="http://21stcenturyjuju.com/">German</a> creates contemporary charmed amulets, which she calls jujus, turning found objects into powerful treasures. Her website elaborates her mission "Inspired by, speaking in tongues, tongues speaking in hands, and instantaneously healing by the sight of a thing." New Work. Symphony of Sorrow Borrowed From the Tangled Tongue of the National Rifle Association and that Asshole Citizens United and the Lies the Lies the Lies or Power Figure Prayer to the Souls of Gun Shot Dead Babies Even if they are Grown Up. 2013 39x23x20 media: old used up tricycle, buttons, telephone wire, twine, recycled bubble wrap, toy watches, toy alligators, toy guns, beads, bottles, light bulbs, Homewood beads, some of my tears, 48 star flag as tears, furniture tacks, old insurance shield, silver plate spoons, Tropicana drink stirrers, crocheted doily, symphony tobacco tin, keys, buttons, rhinestones, blue doll eye, sunburst mirror frame, one of jesus’s praying hands as a pepper shaker, toy cap gun, art deco hand mirror, geman doll bust, salt pot, mammy thimble, tiny bird salt shaker, tar, doll parts, pigment, plaster, wood glue, too much crying over the evening news
Born in 1977 <a href="http://www.kehindewiley.com/">Wiley</a> incorporates the aesthetic motifs of traditional artistic portraiture with contemporary models of black men to explore issues of identity, diversity and masculinity. Kehinde Wiley's Benediter Brkou (The World Stage: Israel), 2011, oil and gold and silver enamel on canvas. Private Collection.