“Envision an art world utopia in which every artist, irrespective of gender or race, is valued for their work!” It was (and still is) a lovely sentiment, shouted by 14 female artists decked in flowers and gowns and leotards, and standing in the second-floor galleries of the Whitney Museum. The group of artists, who called themselves the “cliterati,” were winding down their performance-protest over “the tokenistic approach to diversity on display at the [Whitney] Biennial” with a rallying cry, followed by a photo op.
What preceded the cry was equally well-intentioned, if not entirely successful. The cliterati, along with more than a dozen others, showed up at the Whitney during pay-what-you-wish Friday night hours to stage the Clitney Perennial (rhymes with “Whitney Biennial”). Beginning around 6pm, they congregated in the lobby, dressed in various degrees of cliterateness: colorfully elaborate headdresses here, sheer slips and makeup like face paint there; others wore plainclothes with hand-drawn patches pinned on, and always, everywhere flowers (channeling Frida Kahlo). Twenty or so minutes later, the group made its way up the stairs to the central galleries of the museum’s second floor, where a few of the women began with a performance of sorts — gyrating and hissing and dancing — followed by a quiet welcoming of viewers to the Perennial.