Learning Series Lecture:
The Whitney Biennial—
A History of Reinvention and Contention,

Sat, Mar 16, 2019
12–1 pm

Floor 3, Theater

Individual, Dual, and Friend Members

“You only get clobbered every other year.”
—John I. H. Baur (Whitney director, 1968–1974); quoted in The New York Times, 1973

Join teaching fellow Aliza Shvarts to explore the history of the Whitney Biennial, the longest-running survey of contemporary American art in the country. Inaugurated in 1932 as alternating painting and sculpture annuals, the exhibition transitioned in 1973 to the current every-other-year schedule. At the same time, the Whitney expanded the amount of gallery space devoted to the exhibition and broadened its focus to include all media.

Indeed, what the Biennial is has been a site of ongoing reinvention—and, at times, even contention. For many participating artists and Biennial curators in recent decades the exhibition has served as a forum for the day’s most urgent ideas. And a number of Biennials became flashpoints for protest and debate, raising questions about the nature of art and the roles of museums and artists in our society. In this talk, we’ll explore some of these questions, guided by case studies drawn from the Biennial’s dynamic history.

Saturday, March 16 
12–1 pm

Sunday, March 24
2–3 pm

Wednesday, May 1
7–8 pm*

Saturday, May 4
1–2 pm*
3–4 pm

*This event has reached capacity.

Individual, Dual, and Friend members are invited to this event. For Individual members, the invitation is for one and for Dual and Friend members, the invitation is for two.


Aliza Shvarts is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at New York University as well as a practicing artist. As an artist, writer, and scholar, her work deals broadly with feminist and queer understandings of reproductive labor and temporality. She recently exhibited work at MoMA PS1 and Tate Modern. Her writing has appeared in Extensions: The Online Journal of Embodiment and Technology, Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, and The Brooklyn Rail.

The Susan and John Hess Family Theater is equipped with an induction loop and infrared assistive listening system. Accessible seating is available.

Learn more about access services and programs.