In advance of the Whitney Biennial, which opens on March 1, Modern Painters asked co-curator Elisabeth Sussman a few choice questions.
What works of art would you own, if space and cost were no object?
Matisse—top to bottom of every wall.
Which artist, living or dead, would you most like to have a drink with?
Which artist would you most like to have a spirited argument with?
What’s the last great book you read?
Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child.
Which international city gives you the greatest hope for contemporary art’s future, and why?
Detroit. It exists at degree zero now, but it has an incredible past: early industrial architecture, Diego Rivera murals, a history of radical politics. It’s a haunted and a haunting place.
What’s one artistic trend that you find heartening or inspiring?
People following their own interests, however idiosyncratic.
What’s one artistic trend that you wish would die out?
Overproduced, overconceptualized, text-heavy art.
What is the biggest challenge in organizing and curating something as ambitious as the Whitney Biennial?
Not making an exhibition that’s like an art fair, not wearing people out with art overload, trying to make space and time for visceral responses, following one’s own instincts and not those of other people.
Do you have a favorite previous rendition of the Whitney Biennial?
Memorable works of art were in Klaus Kertess’s 1995 biennial; Lisa Phillips and Louise Neri’s 1997 biennial; and Chrissie Iles and Phillipe Vergne’s 2006 biennial.
What’s your favorite place for quiet contemplation?
Walking in New York, in the midst of the city.