Then and Now: The Whitney Museum Compares NYC Artworks from its First Biennial to Today

 

 

 

Image credit: Left: George C. Ault, Hudson Street, 1932. Oil on linen, 24 3/16 × 20in. (61.4 × 50.8 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 33.40. © Estate of George C. Ault. Right: Photo by Max Touhey Photography

Much has changed in New York City in the nearly 100 years since the Whitney Museum of American Art launched its landmark exhibition, while some things have remained the same.

The inaugural Whitney Biennial—a survey of contemporary American art—opened on November 22, 1932, and featured several works that highlighted life in New York City, including Edward Hopper’s now iconic painting Room in New York and works by artists Joseph Stella, Florine Stettheimer, and George C. Ault, among others.

First Biennial exhibition catalogue, 1932. Image courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art.

To mark the latest edition of the Biennial—Whitney Biennial 2024: Even Better Than The Real Thing, on view at the Museum (99 Gansevoort Street in Manhattan) until August 11—the Whitney partnered with architectural photographer Max Touhey to determine the exact locations of many New York City scenes depicted in 1932 Biennial artworks and recreate them. The results show a changing NYC and showcase the longevity of the Biennial, the longest-running survey of American art that, since its beginning, has spotlighted many of the most relevant ideas and artists of the time.

The First Biennial Exhibition Catalogue, 1932-1933. Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2012 with funding from Metropolitan New York Library Council – METO. Image courtesy of Whitney Museum of American Art.

Each location will be included in a digital map launching today at whitney.org/map and next week via Whitney’s guide on the Bloomberg Connects app. The project—called “Putting Artists on The Map”—showcases the long history of the Whitney Biennial in New York City and invites viewers to discover the locations of Biennial artist studios, NYC spots depicted by Biennial artists, NY subway stations that include artworks by Biennial artists as part of the MTA’s Art and Design program, and much more.

The map will take viewers from Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence uptown to Edward Hopper on Washington Square Park and Jean-Michel Basquiat on Great Jones in Soho, then over the bridge to John Cunning in Brooklyn.

“The Biennial has been part of the Whitney—and New York City—for nearly a century, and every iteration offers the opportunity to bring new voices to the fore,” said the Museum’s Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator Kim Conaty. “Just as the 1932 edition gave us contemporary reflections by the likes of Hopper and Stettheimer, today’s Biennial artists are helping to shape the landscape of tomorrow.”

The First Biennial Exhibition Catalogue, 1932-1933. Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2012 with funding from Metropolitan New York Library Council – METO. Image courtesy of Whitney Museum of American Art.

Side-by-side comparisons of NYC locations that the Museum was able to recreate from artworks in the 1932 Biennial include:

The Museum also recreated the view of the original Whitney Museum at 10 West 8th Street, which graced the cover of the 1932 Biennial catalog.

The Whitney Biennial 2024: Even Better Than the Real Thing will be on view to August 11, 2024. The Whitney is located at 99 Gansevoort Street between Washington and West Streets, NYC.

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