In Depth

Whitney Biennial: New York's controversial showcase returns

The provocative exhibition features 63 artists and is for the first time housed in Renzo Piano's striking new downtown home for the museum

Whitney Biennial has long been one of the most thought-provoking – and often controversial – showcases of American art. A renowned champion of new talent, it is credited with helping bring to prominence such seminal artists as Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock and Jeff Koons, and remains a key trendsetter for the contemporary scene.

This year will see the 78th edition of the Whitney Museum of American Art's annual and biennial exhibitions, first put in place in 1932 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a leading patron of oft-unknown and visionary creatives in the country. For 2017, 63 participants will display their work, which for the first time will be shown in the Whitney's new building, designed by famed architect Renzo Piano, in Manhattan's Meatpacking District.

Led by Christopher Y Lew, associate curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and former MoMA curator Mia Locks, this spring's showcase will see artists interpret the timely theme of the role of the individual in a turbulent society. 'Throughout our research and travel we've been moved by the impassioned discussions we had about recent tumult in society, politics and the economic system,' says Lew. 'It's been unavoidable, as we met with artists, fellow curators, writers and other cultural producers across the United States and beyond.'

The multidisciplinary show will highlight works across painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, performance and more. The spotlight will be on the moving image in all its forms, with a dedicated programme – shown at the Susan and John Hess Family Theater on the museum's third floor – of film screening and conversations spanning documentaries, experimental film and video installations.

Whitney Biennial runs from 17 March until 11 June at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014; whitney.org

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