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The last time the Whitney Biennial came around, in 2022, its production had been extended an extra year by the Covid pandemic, and the curators had to plan the exhibition and meet artists in virtual visits over Zoom.

To prepare for the 2024 Biennial — the latest iteration in the landmark exhibition of American contemporary art, which opens March 20 — this edition’s organizers, the Whitney Museum curators Chrissie Iles and Meg Onli, hit the road. They conducted some 200 studio visits around the country and well beyond.

On Thursday the museum revealed the names of artists who will participate in the Biennial, titled Even Better Than the Real Thing. It is relatively compact, with 69 artists and two collectives spread across the gallery exhibition, the accompanying film and performance programs — and the global map: 20 of the artists, many filmmakers, live or work outside the United States.

Luger, who was born in North Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation, and lives in New Mexico, is installing a full-size tipi — upside-down. “It’s a signal that the way we are going as a species is inverted,” he said.

For Iles and Onli, the focus is less on the state of American art than on America itself at a raw, vulnerable time. They were drawn to artists who explored how people carried and processed society’s wounds in their bodies and minds — and what creative regeneration that sparked.

As for the title, it is a kind of multipronged retort to the culture wars over what is “real” — from the rise of artificial intelligence to efforts to impose social and bodily conformity. “There’s a type of queer playfulness there,” Onli said of the offerings — an ironic humor that insists: “Of course we’re even better than the real!”


–Siddartha Mitter 

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