This Just In!: David Breslin And Adrienne Edwards Will Curate The 2021 Whitney Biennial

The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that its 2021 Biennial, the 80th edition, will be co-organized by two brilliant members of the Museum’s curatorial department, David Breslin and Adrienne Edwards. The 2021 Whitney Biennial exhibition will open in the spring of 2021 and is presented by Tiffany & Co., which has been the lead sponsor of the Biennial since the Museum’s move downtown.

Image credit: Adrienne Edwards and David Breslin. Photograph by Bryan Derballa

Alice Pratt Brown Director Adam D. Weinberg noted: “The central aim of the Biennial is to be a barometer of contemporary American art. Each Biennial is a reflection of the cultural and social moment as it intersects with the passions, perspectives, and tastes of the curators. David and Adrienne will be a great team. They are inquisitive, curious, and are acutely attuned to the art of the current moment. No doubt they will bring fresh outlooks to this historic exhibition and reinvent it for these complex and challenging times.”

With a long history of exhibiting the most promising and influential artists and provoking debate, the Whitney Biennial is the Museum’s signature survey of the state of contemporary art in the United States. The Biennial, an invitational show of work produced in the preceding two years, was introduced by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1932, and it is the longest continuous series of exhibitions in the country to survey recent developments in American art.

Initiated by founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1932, the Whitney Biennial is the longest-running survey of American art. More than 3,600 artists have participated, including Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jacob Lawrence, Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, Lynda Benglis, Frank Bowling, Joan Jonas, Barbara Kruger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer, David Wojnarowicz, Glenn Ligon, Yvonne Rainer, Zoe Leonard, Kara Walker, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Mike Kelley, Lorna Simpson, Renée Green, Wade Guyton, Julie Mehretu, Cecilia Vicuña, Mark Bradford, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Ellen Gallagher, Rachel Harrison, Wu Tsang, Nick Mauss, Sarah Michelson, Laura Owens, Postcommodity, Pope.L, Jeffrey Gibson, and Tiona Nekkia McClodden.

The biennials were originally organized by medium, with painting alternating with sculpture and works on paper. Starting in 1937, the Museum shifted to yearly exhibitions called Annuals. The current format—a survey show of work in all media occurring every two years—has been in place since 1973. The 2019 Biennial (still on partial view on the Museum’s sixth floor until October 27) was organized by two Whitney curators, Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley. It featured seventy-five artists and collectives working in painting, sculpture, installation, film and video, photography, performance, and sound.

David Breslin was recently named the DeMartini Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Initiatives, a role he will assume this month. Since joining the Museum in 2016 as DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection, Breslin has spearheaded the Museum’s collection-related activities, curating a series of major collection exhibitions and overseeing acquisitions. Working closely with his curatorial colleagues, he has organized or co-organized four timely and thematized collection displays, including Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960, An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017, Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s, and The Whitney’s Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965, which is currently on view on the Museum’s seventh floor. In 2018, he co-curated (with David Kiehl) the landmark retrospective David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night.

Breslin came to the Whitney from the Menil Drawing Institute, where he created an ambitious program of exhibitions and public and scholarly events and helped to shape the design of the Institute’s new facility. He also oversaw work on the catalogue raisonné of the drawings of Jasper Johns and grew the collection. Prior to the Menil, Breslin served as the associate director of the research and academic program and associate curator of contemporary projects at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA; he also oversaw the Clark’s residential fellowship program and taught in the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art. Breslin co-edited Art History and Emergency: Crises in the Visual Arts and Humanities (Yale University Press, 2016), a volume that grew from a Clark Conference he organized with art historian Darby English.

In 2018, Adrienne Edwards was named Engell Speyer Family Curator and Curator of Performance at the Whitney. Previously, she served as curator of Performa since 2010 and as Curator at Large for the Walker Art Center since 2016.

At the Whitney, Edwards curated Jason Moran, the artist’s first museum show, now on view on the Museum’s eighth floor. She originated the exhibition at the Walker in 2018; it previously traveled to the ICA Boston and the Wexner Center for the Arts. The exhibition features a series of performances, Jazz on a High Floor in the Afternoon, curated by Edwards and Moran. She organized the event commencing the construction of David Hammons’s Day’s End, featuring a commission by composer Henry Threadgill and a “water” tango on the Hudson River by the Fire Department of the City of New York’s Marine Company 9. Earlier this year, Edwards organized Moved by the Motion: Sudden Rise, a series of performances based on a text co-written by Wu Tsang, boychild, and Fred Moten, which presented a collage of words, film, movements, and sounds.

For Performa, Edwards realized new boundary-defying commissions, as well as pathfinding conferences and film programs with a wide range of over forty international artists. While at the Walker, she co-led the institution-wide Mellon Foundation Interdisciplinary Initiative, an effort to expand ways of commissioning, studying, collecting, documenting, and conserving cross-disciplinary works. Edwards’s curatorial projects have included the critically acclaimed exhibition and catalogue Blackness in Abstraction, hosted by Pace Gallery in 2016. She also organized Frieze’s Artist Award and Live program in New York in 2018. Edwards taught art history and visual studies at New York University and The New School, and she is a contributor to the National Gallery of Art’s Center for the Advanced Study in Visual Art’s forthcoming publication Black Modernisms.

Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator, said, “David and Adrienne truly represent the best spirit and ideals of the Whitney. Not only are they devoted to—and beloved by—living artists, but they bring to the art of our time a deep historical and scholarly awareness. The most recent editions of the Biennial have reaffirmed its vitality and relevance, and I look forward to discovering how another pair of Whitney curators will lend their voices to our signature exhibition.”

Rare Depictions Of Early America By Pioneering Woman Artist And French Refugee At New-York Historical Society

Artist in Exile: The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville, November 1, 2019 – January 26, 2020

Artist in Exile: The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville sheds light on this fascinating artist, whose life reads like a compelling historical novel.

This fall, the New-York Historical Society introduces visitors to a little-known artist whose work documented the people and scenes of early America. Artist in Exile: The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville, on view November 1, 2019 – January 26, 2020 in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery of the Center for Women’s History, presents 114 watercolors and drawings by Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849). Self-taught and ahead of her time, Neuville’s art celebrates the young country’s history, culture, and diverse population, ranging from Indigenous Americans to political leaders. Curated by Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, curator of drawings at New-York Historical, this exhibition is the first serious exploration of Neuville’s life and art—showcasing many recently discovered works including rare depictions of European scenes and people at work, a lifelong sociological interest—and is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue.

Baroness Hyde de Neuville’s status as a woman, an outsider, and a refugee shaped her view of America and Americans, making her a particularly keen and sympathetic observer of individuals from a range of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Neuville could never have envisioned that her visual diary—created as a personal record of her travels and observations of early America—would become an invaluable historical document of the early republic. Yet her drawings vividly evoke the national optimism and rapid expansion of the young United States and capture the diversity of its inhabitants.”

Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849) Self-Portrait (1771–1849), ca. 1800–10 Black chalk, black ink and wash, graphite, and Conté crayon on paper New-York Historical Society, Purchase, 1953.238
Born in France into an aristocratic family, Neuville received an education that probably included drawing lessons. In 1794, she married royalist Jean Guillaume Hyde de Neuville during the unsure times of the French Revolution. In 1800, the couple was imprisoned and forced into hiding. The future baron was condemned as an outlaw for his alleged participation in a plot to assassinate Napoleon.
Fearing for her husband’s safety, the independent baroness attempted to disprove the charges. In 1805, she took her cause directly to Napoleon, pursuing the French Army across Germany and Austria and finally obtaining an audience with him in Vienna. Impressed with her courage, the Emperor allowed the couple to go into exile. They arrived in New York in 1807 and stayed for seven years. During their second residency (1816–22), when her husband served as Minister Plenipotentiary, they lived primarily in Washington, D.C., where Henriette became a celebrated hostess and cultural figure.

Born to an aristocratic family in Sancerre, France, Henriette married ardent royalist Jean Guillaume Hyde de Neuville, who became involved during the French Revolution in conspiracies to reinstate the Bourbon monarchy and was accused of participating in a plot to assassinate Napoleon. In an effort to disprove the charges against her husband, the baroness took her cause directly to Napoleon, who was impressed with her courage and allowed the couple to go into exile. They arrived in New York in 1807 and stayed for seven years. During their second American residency (1816–22), when her husband served as French Minister Plenipotentiary in Washington, D.C., Henriette became a celebrated hostess. John Quincy Adams described her in his diary as “a woman of excellent temper, amiable disposition… profuse charity, yet judicious economy and sound discretion.” In 1818, she presciently stated that she had but one wish “and that was to see an American lady elected president.”

Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849) Peter of Buffalo, Tonawanda, New York, 1807 Watercolor, graphite, black chalk, and brown and black ink with touches of gouache on paper New-York Historical Society, Purchase, 1953.220
Neuville identifies her sitter as “Peter of Buffalo.” The word “tonaventa” refers to nearby Tonawanda, site of the Tonawanda Seneca Reservation. Neuville’s sitter has manipulated ear lobes pierced with one earring, which, like his bare feet, are traditional for Seneca tribesmen. He wears hybrid apparel: an undershirt, a fur piece, and leggings with garters, and carries a trade ax known as a halberd tomahawk, a knife, and a powder horn—as well as a string of wampum.
Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849) Pélagie Drawing a Portrait, from the “Economical School Series”, 1808 Black chalk, gray watercolor, graphite, and pink gouache on blue paper New-York Historical Society, Gift of Mark Emanuel, 2018.42.21
Neuville sketched studies of students at the Economical School (École Économique), the couple’s major contribution to cultural life of New York City. Incorporated in 1810, its mission was to educate French émigrés and fugitives from the French West Indie, and to offer affordable education to impoverished children. Its five board members included the future baron, who was secretary, as well as members of the New-York Historical Society. The baron admired American charity schools and wanted to provide the same opportunities to children and adults of both sexes. The baroness’ drawings of its students are the only visual evidence of this significant institution.

Artist in Exile follows Neuville’s life, reconstructing her artistic education and tracing her artistic practice, which included portraiture, landscapes and cityscapes, ethnographic studies, botanical art, and other genres. Highlights of the exhibition include Neuville’s views of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, street scenes of her neighborhood (now known as Tribeca), a watercolor documenting an “Indian War Dance” performed for President Monroe, and portraits of subjects ranging from Indigenous Americans to immigrant students at a Manhattan school founded by the Neuvilles. The exhibition opens with Neuville’s miniature self-portrait (ca. 1800-1810) that was likely created for her husband to carry on his travels. Pictured wearing a fashionable daytime empire-waist dress over a chemisette, fingerless mitts, and hoop earrings, the baroness looks away, not engaging the viewer as is customary with self-portraits that are drawn using a mirror because she based it on another study.

Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849) Martha Church, Cook in “Ordinary” Costume, 1808–10 Watercolor, graphite, black chalk, brown and black ink, and touches of white gouache on paper New-York Historical Society, Purchase, 1953.276
Neuville’s inscription identifies the sitter as a cook named Martha Church, dressed in everyday attire. Neuville endowed the subject with dignity. It is unclear whether Church, a black woman, was a free domestic or a slave, or whether she was of Caribbean or African descent. Many of the artist’s works demonstrate a sociological interest and celebrate work.

Upon first reaching the United States, the Neuvilles journeyed up the Hudson River and to Niagara Falls, where Henriette was one of the first to record many early settlements, buildings, and rustic scenes. In the watercolor Distant View of Albany from the Hudson River, New York (1807), she drew the panoramic view from the sloop Diana as it traveled downriver from Albany, chronicling the river long before artist William Guy Wall’s renowned Hudson River Portfolio (1820–25). The atmospheric vista conveys the majestic sweep of the Hudson and the reflections on its surface. In Break’s Bridge, Palatine, New York (1808), Neuville, who was intrigued by engineering and technology, depicts a newly constructed Mohawk River bridge destroyed by rushing waters. The couple in the foreground of the image is the Neuvilles, with their pet spaniel, Volero.

Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771– 1849) Distant View of Albany from the Hudson River, New York, 1807 Watercolor, brown ink, black chalk, and graphite with touches of gouache on paper New-York Historical Society, Purchase, 1953.242
Neuville drew the panoramic view from the sloop Diana, traveling downriver from Albany. Her atmospheric vista conveys the majestic sweep of the Hudson River, together with reflections on its surface. Albany became the state capital in 1796. Her works recording the river importantly predate The Hudson River Portfolio (1820–25).

Neuville also captured vivid views of New York City residents and buildings—many of them long since demolished—bringing to life the burgeoning urban center and its ethnically diverse population. Corner of Greenwich Street (1810) represents a scene at the intersection of Greenwich and Dey streets. Near the cellar hatch of the brick house at the center stands an Asian man, who may be the Chinese merchant Punqua Winchong, making this work one of the earliest visual records of a Chinese person in the United States.

Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771– 1849) Indian War Dance for President Monroe, Washington, D.C., 1821 Watercolor, graphite, black and brown ink, and gouache on paper Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
Neuville’s scene depicts the “Indian War Dance” performed during the visit of a delegation of 16 leaders of the Plains Indian tribes to President James Monroe at the White House on November 29, 1821. The delegation included representatives of the Pawnee, Omaha, Kansa, Ottoe, and Missouri tribes. Neuville, who was in attendance, recorded the event, portraying at the left Hayne Hudjihini (Eagle of Delight), one of the five wives of halfchief Shaumonekusse (Prairie Wolf), wearing the horned headdress. In the upper background she sketched Monroe with his four companions, including the baron wearing a feathered bicorne hat.

The Neuvilles contributed to the cultural life in New York as co-founders of the École Économique (Economical School), incorporated in 1810 as the Society of the Economical School of the City of New York. Its mission was to educate the children of French émigrés and fugitives from the French West Indies and to offer affordable education to impoverished children. Henriette sketched the students at the school, and many works from the “Economical School Series” are on view in the exhibition, including the recently discovered life size portrait, Pélagie Drawing a Portrait (1808), which demonstrates the school’s emphasis on drawing. Her series is the only visual record of the school’s existence.

Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771– 1849) Corner of Greenwich Street, 1810 Watercolor, graphite, and touches of black ink on paper New York Public Library, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, Stokes 1810-E17b
Neuville’s watercolor records Greenwich Street running perpendicular to Dey Street, where the Neuvilles lived. Nothing remains of this neighborhood, which would be occupied by World Trade Center. Near the cellar hatch of the brick house at the center stands an Asian man. He may be the Chinese merchant Punqua Winchong, who was in New York and Washington in 1807–08, and who attended one of the Neuvilles’ famous Saturday parties on March 28, 1818. This work is one of the earliest visual records of a Chinese person in the U.S.

The couple returned to France in 1814 after the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of King Louis XVIII and the Bourbon monarchy. In 1816, Louis XVIII appointed the baron French Minister Plenipotentiary, and the Neuvilles returned to the U.S., settling in Washington, D.C. They became renowned for their lavish Saturday evening parties and their friendships with President James Monroe and James and Dolley Madison. Among the notable events the Neuvilles attended was an “Indian War Dance,” performed by a delegation of 16 leaders of the Plains Indian tribes in front of President Monroe and 6,000 spectators at the White House on November 29, 1821. Neuville’s watercolor documenting the event includes likenesses of half-chief Shaumonekusse (Prairie Wolf) and one of his five wives, Hayne Hudjihini (Eagle of Delight). Later, the “War Dance” was also performed at the Neuvilles’ house.

Neuville’s portraits of individuals celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of the early American republic, and her portrayals are notable for their ethnographic integrity and avoidance of stereotypes. In the portrait of Peter of Buffalo, Tonawanda, New York (1807), the sitter has ear lobes pierced with earrings and bare feet, traditional for Seneca tribesmen. Wearing an undershirt, a fur piece, and leggings with garters, he carries a tomahawk, a knife, a powder horn, and a string of wampum. In the portrait Martha Church, Cook in “Ordinary” Costume (1808–10), Neuville depicts a cook in her everyday attire, as part of the artistic tradition of occupational portraits that originated in Europe and appeared in New York in the early 19th century.

Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849) Tomb of Washington at Mount Vernon, Virginia, 1818 Watercolor, graphite, black chalk, and brown ink on paper Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum
After George Washington’s death in 1799, his remains were placed in a family vault at Mount Vernon. During the Neuvilles’ second residency, the national hero’s tomb became an obligatory tourist stop. Unlike many other representations, Neuville included a view of the main house with its veranda overlooking the Potomac River, together with a unique anecdotal incident: a caretaker opens the vault’s wooden door to reveal stacks of coffins belonging to the Washington family. In 1831, a new family tomb was constructed, and the coffins were transferred to its vault.

The exhibition features works from New-York Historical’s collection, the most extensive in the world, as well as important loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the New York Public Library, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs; the Museum of the City of New York, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Hagley Museum and Library, and Princeton University, Firestone Library, Rare Books and Special Collections, Graphic Arts Collection.

Publication and Programming
Accompanying the exhibition is the scholarly publication Artist in Exile: The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville, published by GILES, an imprint of D Giles Limited. Written by Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson with assistance by Alexandra Mazzitelli, the publication also features an essay by Dr. Charlene M. Boyer Lewis.

A gallery tour of Artist in Exile, led by curator Roberta J.M. Olson, takes place on January 6. In honor of the baroness’ heritage, several French movies will be shown as part of New-York Historical’s Friday night Justice in Film series: 1938’s The Baker’s Wife on November 8 and 1946’s Beauty and the Beast on December 6. On select weekends throughout the exhibition’s run, young visitors can explore the baroness’ life and the art she created with touch objects and Living Historians.

The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation provided lead funding for Artist in Exile: The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde de Neuville, with important support given by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. Additional support provided by Furthermore, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund; the Greater Hudson Heritage Network; Nicole, Nathan, and Brian Wagner; Helen Appel; Pam Schafler; David and Laura Grey; and Myron and Adeline Hofer.