Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta.
Photo: Scott Rudd

Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley

Ahead of this year's Whitney Biennial the curatorial duo discuss how the 79th iteration stands apart
Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta. Photo: Scott Rudd

Art insiders know to head to the Whitney Biennial to discover exciting emerging talents. As the nation’s longest-running survey of American art—it was founded in 1932—the biennial is viewed as a launchpad for artists, making the curator’s job a herculean feat. This year, the Whitney Museum’s Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley are in the driver’s seat.

The duo have spent the past 12 months traversing the country, visiting more than 300 artist studios in preparation. “We tried to cast as wide a net as we could—keeping in mind that we’re only two people,” says Hockley, a rising-star curator who joined the museum just two years ago. “We’ve tried to include younger artists and those who haven’t shown in a biennial before.”

Recommended: Full Artist List for the 2019 Whitney Biennial Is Unveiled

What will further set this edition—the biennial’s 79th installment—apart, say the curators, is that there will also be a heavy dose of performance art, something they consider an underrated medium. “At a moment when younger galleries and artists are struggling and there is limited funding in the world for performance,” says Panetta, who recently curated the highly acclaimed exhibition of MacArthur “Genius” Njideka Akunyili Crosby, “it felt particularly important to give this work a platform.”

View of the Whitney Museum of American Art from Gansevoort Street. Photo: Ed Lederman

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2019 Spring Issue under the headline Creative Minds. Subscribe to the magazine.

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