Whitney Biennial 2022: 
Quiet as It’s Kept

Apr 6–Oct 16, 2022

The Whitney Biennial has surveyed the landscape of American art, reflecting and shaping the cultural conversation, since 1932. The eightieth edition of the landmark exhibition is co-curated by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Initiatives, and Adrienne Edwards, Engell Speyer Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs. Titled Quiet as It’s Kept, the 2022 Biennial features an intergenerational and interdisciplinary group of sixty-three artists and collectives whose dynamic works reflect the challenges, complexities, and possibilities of the American experience today.

Read more about the exhibition in a statement by the curators.

View performance series.

En Español

Desde 1932, la Bienal del Whitney ha examinado el panorama del arte estadounidense, reflejando y dando forma a la conversación cultural. La octogésima edición de esta emblemática exhibición está co-curada por David Breslin y Adrienne Edwards. La Bienal 2022 titulada: Quiet as It's Kept (Aunque nadie diga nada), presenta un grupo intergeneracional e interdisciplinario de sesenta y tres artistas y colectivos, cuyas dinámicas obras reflejan los retos, complejidades y posibilidades de la experiencia americana actual.

Nos complace ofrecer los siguientes recursos y programas en español para la Bienal 2022: una guía portátil, traducciones de todos los videos relacionados a la exposición, visitas guiadas gratuitas de la exposición, y visitas guiadas gratuitas para las escuelas públicas de la ciudad de Nueva York. Todos los textos descriptivos de la exposición estarán en inglés y español en el Museo.


95 / 63

Previous Next

Charles Ray


Floor 5 Terrace

Born 1953 in Chicago, IL
Lives in Los Angeles, CA

This installation features three new sculptures by Charles Ray: a blankly staring man, a man eating a burger, and a drunken man. Carved from stainless steel, steel, and cast in bronze and painted, these sculptures combine cutting-edge technology and skilled handwork. He works slowly and meticulously, often spending years on each sculpture. His figures are both extremely specific and archetypal. But the sculptures can also be read as emblems of our historical moment: drug-altered, precariously employed, drunk on beer and debt. Ray, an inveterate walker, has described a daily routine that informs his thinking: “I go to Burger King every day, not to eat but to think. I went to one in Madrid at four in the morning; it’s just like the one in LA, identical. Who is there, and what are they being promised? Jean Gesner Henry (aka Coupé Cloué), the Haitian leader of the band Trio Select, said in an interview that money never falls into a poor man’s pocket.”

Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall, 2021

  • Charles Ray, Burger


    Charles Ray, Burger


    Narrator: Charles Ray’s process is painstaking and slow. For the three sculptures here on the terrace, Ray discussed a range of references from a 1950s psychiatric experiment involving people with schizophrenia to the people he saw at the crack of dawn at the Burger King in his neighborhood.

    Charles Ray: I sent my casting director, who helps me find models for sculptures and whatnot. And he went and volunteered for a year in a needle exchange program downtown Los Angeles and just got to know the local people.

    Narrator: That interaction eventually led to Ray concentrating on the piece here titled Jeff, of a figure staring into space. He increased the scale, in an effort to raise Jeff to something more profound.

    Charles Ray: I kind of see him, in a certain sense, as a modern mocking of Christ. He’s just sitting on a box very down and out, very dejected, but I think the scale, in a certain sense, brings an abstraction to it where the equation can move. And in a certain sense, the soul of the sculpture, I wouldn’t even say push, but move back to you rather than you constantly moving into it with empathy. And I guess if there’s any divinity in it, it lies in that equation somewhere. So, that was always going on. It just was finished recently.

    Narrator: Now turn to the seated figure eating a burger. Ray found inspiration for this piece on his early morning walks, when he would stop in to a local Burger King.

    Charles Ray: I was in there every morning around 7:00 am, between seven and eight, I’d spend ten minutes then. I’d go in the front door, then out the side door. And I realized that people were really interested in their hamburgers, in their Burger King, in their food, in their fries. And it was a moment of really great importance and pleasure to them. And some would wear the crowns, and it brought me to the question of, it was a meta question, who is the king? It was something I started thinking about.

    And I found a model, it was a UPS driver, and I made a sculpture of him concentrating on his burger, so he was sitting on a stool, eating his hamburger and concentrating on it. There is like an almost Eastern contemplation going on. It’s almost like a Buddha.

    Narrator: The third sculpture in the trio depicts a drunk student.

    Charles Ray: Then I was at the Getty and the Getty had just recently acquired a drawing of a drunk peasant. And he was just so drunk, and the drawing was about his drunkenness. He was so drunk, and this was conveyed in the drawing.

    I was looking at this drawing, and I was thinking, our kind of contemporary equivalent to this peasant is a student, a university student because they leave university and they’re indentured. They have such horrible student loans that they’re indentured and it can be an economic hardship for some people their whole life or half their life with these debts. And then a college student, you see them in Ann Arbor on a Friday night just puking at a bus stop in a group, hardly being able to move. You don’t think anything of it. Students, Jesus, they’re kind of allowed to be drunk like this peasant is allowed to be drunk, in a way.

    So I looked around with my casting agent and found some students and got them super drunk, and picked one in the end and this is the last sculpture in the exhibition, and it’s called 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. And it’s this super drunk student sitting on kegs or six packs or twelve packs of beer and it’s scaled up.

    And then I started thinking, well, I have Christ in the figure of Jeff. I have the Eucharist in the burger eater and I have the wine and the beer drinker, the blood. And that’s kind of where I am.


View all

Audio guides

Hear directly from artists and curators on selected works from the exhibition.

View guide

Exhibition Catalogue

The 2022 Whitney Biennial is accompanied by this landmark volume. Each of the Biennial’s participants is represented by a selected exhibition history, a bibliography, and imagery complemented by a personal statement or interview that foregrounds the artist’s own voice. Essays by the curators and other contributors elucidate themes of the exhibition and discuss the participants. The 2022 Biennial’s two curators, David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards, are known for their close collaboration with living artists. Coming after several years of seismic upheaval in and beyond the cultural, social, and political landscapes, this catalogue will offer a new take on the storied institution of the Biennial while continuing to serve—as previous editions have—as an invaluable resource on present-day trends in contemporary art in the United States.

Buy now

Explore works from this exhibition
in the Whitney's collection

View 33 works

In the News

"After three years of soul-rattling history, this year’s survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art is reflective and adult-thinking."—The New York Times

". . . the exhibition offers a mix of styles, practices and perspectives that invite contemplation, conversation and return engagements."—Gothamist

". . . a tender, understated survey of the American art scene as it stands right now that also acts as a means of processing the grief of the last two years."ARTnews

". . . if this Biennial doesn’t feel quite like it can let itself go fully wild, there is also a quiet weirdness to it that sincerely reflects the disorienting headspace of the present, and that is worth the trip."Artnet News

"Delayed for a year by the pandemic, the show is exciting without being especially pleasurable—it’s geared toward thought."The New Yorker

". . . the show feels serious and thoughtful throughout, as if dire times require us to forgo old strategies of confrontation and performative anger and get down to the hard work of understanding the world."—The Washington Post

"Revelling in difference—not just of opinion but of style, focus, and approach, it pushes for meaningful exchanges between objects and viewers alike."—Ocula

"An ambitious survey of American art that locates both hope and precarity in the mutability of the present moment."—4Columns

"The 63 artists’ works interact with one another, offering alinear, yet continuous conversation through the psyche and also the pits of our stomachs."—Flaunt

"The exhibition mimics the range of emotions we felt during the past two years, from fear and pain to joy and hope, and everything in between."—Time Out New York

". . . this year’s offering, even with the inclusion of deceased artists, radiates with the power of now."—Vulture

Curatorial Statement
By David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards

Since the start of the pandemic, time has expanded, contracted, suspended, and blurred—often in dizzying succession. We began planning this Biennial in late 2019: before Covid and its reeling effects, before the uprisings demanding racial justice, before the widespread questioning of institutions and their structures, before the 2020 presidential election. Although underlying conditions are not new, their overlap, their intensity, and their sheer ubiquity created a context in which past, present, and future folded into one another. We organized this Biennial to reflect these precarious and improvised times. Many artists’ contributions are dynamic, taking different forms during the course of the exhibition. Artworks change, walls move, and performances animate the galleries and surrounding objects. The spaces of the Biennial contrast significantly, acknowledging the acute polarity of our society. One floor is a labyrinth, a dark space of containment; another is a clearing, open and light filled.

Rather than offering a unified theme, we pursue a series of hunches throughout the exhibition: that abstraction demonstrates a tremendous capacity to create, share, and sometimes withhold meaning; that research-driven conceptual art can combine the lushness of ideas and materiality; that personal narratives sifted through political, literary, and pop cultures can address larger social frameworks; that artworks can complicate the meaning of “American” by addressing the country’s physical and psychological boundaries; and that our present moment can be reimagined by engaging with under-recognized artistic models and artists we have lost. Deliberately intergenerational and interdisciplinary, this Biennial proposes that cultural, aesthetic, and political possibility begins with meaningful exchange and reciprocity.

The subtitle of this Biennial, Quiet as It’s Kept, is a colloquialism. We were inspired by the ways novelist Toni Morrison, jazz drummer Max Roach, and artist David Hammons have invoked it in their works. The phrase is typically said prior to something—often obvious—that should be kept secret. We also adorned the exhibition with a symbol, ) (, from a N. H. Pritchard poem, on view in the exhibition, as a gesture toward openness and interlude. All of the Whitney’s Biennials serve as forums for artists, and the works on view reflect their enigmas, the things that perplex them, and the important questions they are asking. But each of the Biennials also exists as an institutional statement, and every team of curators is entrusted with making an exhibition that resides within the Museum’s history, collection, and reputation. In its eightieth iteration, the Biennial continues to function as an ongoing experiment.

Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It's Kept is co-organized by David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Initiatives, and Adrienne Edwards, Engell Speyer Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, with Mia Matthias, Curatorial Assistant; Gabriel Almeida Baroja, Curatorial Project Assistant; and Margaret Kross, former Senior Curatorial Assistant.

Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It's Kept is presented by


Generous support is provided by


Generous support is also provided by Judy Hart Angelo; The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston; Elaine Graham Weitzen Foundation for Fine Arts; Lise and Michael Evans; John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation; Kevin and Rosemary McNeely, Manitou Fund; The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation; The Rosenkranz Foundation; Anne-Cecilie Engell Speyer and Robert Speyer; and the Whitney's National Committee.

Major support is provided by The Keith Haring Foundation Exhibition Fund, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

Significant support is provided by 2022 Biennial Committee Co-Chairs: Jill Bikoff, Beth Rudin DeWoody, Barbara and Michael Gamson, Miyoung Lee, Bernard Lumpkin, Julie Mehretu, Fred Wilson; 2022 Biennial Committee Members: Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons, Sarah Arison and Thomas Wilhelm, Candy and Michael Barasch, James Keith (JK) Brown and Eric Diefenbach, Eleanor and Bobby Cayre, Alexandre and Lori Chemla, Suzanne and Bob Cochran, Jenny Brorsen and Richard DeMartini, Fairfax Dorn and Marc Glimcher, Stephen Dull, Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg, Melanie Shorin and Greg S. Feldman, Jeffrey & Leslie Fischer Family Foundation, Cindy and Mark Galant, Christy and Bill Gautreaux, Debra and Jeffrey Geller Family Foundation, Aline and Gregory Gooding, Janet and Paul Hobby, Harry Hu, Peter H. Kahng, Michèle Gerber Klein, Ashley Leeds and Christopher Harland, Dawn and David Lenhardt, Jason Li, Marjorie Mayrock, Stacey and Robert Morse, Daniel Nadler, Opatrny Family Foundation, Orentreich Family Foundation, Nancy and Fred Poses, Marylin Prince, Eleanor Heyman Propp, George Wells and Manfred Rantner, Martha Records and Richard Rainaldi, Katie and Amnon Rodan, Jonathan M. Rozoff, Linda and Andrew Safran, Subhadra and Rohit Sahni, Erica and Joseph Samuels, Carol and Lawrence Saper, Allison Wiener and Jeffrey Schackner, Jack Shear, Annette and Paul Smith, the Stanley and Joyce Black Family Foundation, Robert Stilin, Rob and Eric Thomas-Suwall, and Patricia Villareal and Tom Leatherbury; as well as the Alex Katz Foundation, Further Forward Foundation, the Kapadia Equity Fund, Gloria H. Spivak, and an anonymous donor.

Funding is also provided by special Biennial endowments created by Melva Bucksbaum, Emily Fisher Landau, Leonard A. Lauder, and Fern and Lenard Tessler. 

Curatorial research and travel for this exhibition were funded by an endowment established by Rosina Lee Yue and Bert A. Lies, Jr., MD.

New York magazine is the exclusive media sponsor.

More from this series

Learn more about the Whitney Biennial, the longest-running survey of American art.