The press release from the Whitney Museum arrived two days ago, on Friday morning December 11, 2009, so this information is already a bit old hat. But for those just returning from distant lands, the list for the next Biennial comprises 55 artists, making it one of the smallest in recent memory. By comparison, there were 100 participants in 2006 and 81 in 2008, although that last effort annexed the additional vast space of the Park Avenue Armory.
The pundits have rushed in to label this the Recessional Biennial, but any conscious need to downsize is possibly also based on the Whitney husbanding its resources for the projected expansion to their new downtown branch near the southern terminus of The High Line, with construction scheduled to begin next year. A less sprawling, more pristine and manicured show is just about guaranteed, which seems to reflect the general curatorial preferences of Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari, with each participating artist being allowed just one piece. Less work, fewer mini-retrospectives, greater consideration given to each inclusion, simpler logistics: all givens. And a cursory examination of the list promises more painting than in 2008. Then again, it could hardly have been less.