The Whitney To Present Open Plan, A Five-Part Exhibition Revealing The Museum’s Signature Fifth-Floor Galleries As A Vast Open Space

From February 26 through May 14, 2016, the Whitney Museum of American Art will present Open Plan, an experimental five-part exhibition using the Museum’s dramatic fifth floor as a single open gallery, unobstructed by interior walls. The largest column-free museum exhibition space in New York, the Neil Bluhm Family Galleries measure 18,200 square feet and feature windows with striking views east into the city and west to the Hudson River, making for an expansive and inspiring canvas. Five artists have been invited to present solo projects in response to the space, lasting from a few days to just over two weeks. They include installation and performance artist Andrea Fraser; painter Lucy Dodd; sculptor and earth artist Michael Heizer; jazz composer and performer Cecil Taylor; and video- and filmmaker Steve McQueen.

Photograph by Nic Lehoux 2015

Photograph by Nic Lehoux 2015

Open Plan extends a history of Whitney exhibitions that have proposed new ways of responding to gallery space. In the 1960s and ’70s, the Museum offered full floors of its Madison Avenue building to artists and performers, including Robert Morris, Trisha Brown, and Robert Irwin, a tradition that continued more recently with projects by Cory Arcangel, Paul McCarthy, and Sharon Hayes. Performance, in particular, has played a key role, as was seen during Christian Marclay: Festival in 2010 and in the 2012 Biennial, in which nearly the entire fourth floor of the building was given over to a series of performances.

Open Plan was conceived collaboratively by Donna De Salvo, Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator; Christopher Y. Lew, associate curator; Scott Rothkopf, Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator; Jay Sanders, curator and curator of performance; and Elisabeth Sussman, curator and Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography.

The consecutive parts of the exhibition are scheduled as follows:

Andrea Fraser, February 26–March 13

Lucy Dodd, March 17–20

Michael Heizer, March 25–April 10

Cecil Taylor, April 15–24

Steve McQueen, April 29–May 14


Andrea Fraser’s (b. 1965) provocative work spans performance, institutional critique, video, and audience engagement. Her site-specific project, Down the River, uses audio recorded at a correctional facility to bridge the social, cultural, and geographic divide separating museums from correctional facilities. Since the mid-1970s, the United States has seen a parallel boom in museum and prison construction, with some states, such as New York, recently reversing this trend with prison closures. Fraser’s sound installation seeks to reflect on the parts we play in sustaining these disparate institutions. Organized by Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator Scott Rothkopf and assistant curator Laura Phipps.

Lucy Dodd (b. 1981) emphasizes the ritual and performance of painting for her Open Plan exhibition. Over the course of several days she will be present at the Museum to create a new large-scale painting utilizing unusual materials like fermented walnuts, kombucha scoby, hematite, yerba mate, and pigments she has collected in her travels. By bringing her studio activities into the gallery and inviting a range of collaborators to conduct performances and live music, Dodd fosters what she calls “a space of ritual action and improvisation demanding a longer and broader engagement on part of the audience.” She will also create new sculptural furniture and arrange groups of paintings to serve as “shacks” to host events. Organized by associate curator Christopher Y. Lew.

Michael Heizer’s (b. 1944) large-scale earth works have redefined the parameters of sculpture. He will be represented at the Whitney by his 1970 installation, Actual Size: Munich Rotary, a full-scale photographic documentation of the horizon from inside an eighteen-foot-deep hole that Heizer dug in the earth in Munich, Germany. Comprised of six black-and-white glass slide projections, six custom-made steel projectors, and six steel pipes with wood platforms, this vast projected work re-images the depression as seen from its center. This is the first time this iconic work in the Whitney’s collection will be shown in New York. Organized by Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator Donna De Salvo and Melva Bucksbaum Associate Director for Conservation and Research Carol Mancusi-Ungaro.

Pianist Cecil Taylor (b. 1929) is one of America’s most innovative and uncompromising living musicians. A pioneer of free jazz whose work draws on a myriad of different musical styles conveyed through radical improvisation, he will take up residence in the fifth-floor gallery along with friends and fellow performers. This residency will feature a series of live performances amid a retrospective environment that will include documentation of Taylor’s career, including videos, audio, notational scores, photographs, poetry, and other ephemera. Organized by curator and curator of performance Jay Sanders and Lawrence Kumpf, artistic director, ISSUE Project Room, with senior curatorial assistant Greta Hartenstein and Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow Lauren Rosati.

Steve McQueen (b. 1969) is a visual artist and filmmaker, whose films include Hunger, Shame, and 12 Years a Slave, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. McQueen’s project for Open Plan will center on a newly expanded version of his work End Credits, which presents documents from the FBI file kept on the legendary African-American performer Paul Robeson. Organized by Deputy Director for International Initiatives and Senior Curator Donna De Salvo with curatorial assistant Christie Mitchell.

The Whitney’s fifth-floor gallery was conceived as an unparalleled exhibition space to inspire artists and curators, as well as our visitors, with its openness and flexibility,” remarks Scott Rothkopf, Deputy Director for Programs and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator. “To celebrate the end of our inaugural year downtown, we wanted to reveal this space for the first time in its entirety and give artists the opportunity to respond to the site with new projects or to display work from the collection that we couldn’t have previously shown. The featured artists span a broad range of ages, mediums, and approaches, and we’ve asked them to respond to the space with a light touch and without interior construction in order to lend Open Plan a lively and experimental spirit.

Major support is provided by the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation and the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Significant support is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston.