The Whitney has announced the curator of its 2010 biennial: Italian Francesco Bonami. At 53, he’s best known for the 2003 Venice Biennale, which was met with mixed reviews, and more fondly remembered for curating the cutting-edge Aperto wing of the 1993 Biennale. There, Jeffrey Deitch showed a carcass by then-unknown Damien Hirst, with tragic results. Specifically, fumes from Hirst’s preservatives killed all the ants in the adjacent ant farm brought by artist Yukinori Yanagi. The resulting international kerfuffle put Hirst on the map.
Bonami will be co-curating with the Whitney’s Gary Carrion-Murayari, 28, who is considered to be either a sop or a comfort to those who worry that the Euro-tied senior curator won’t be doing the Brooklyn art scene much justice (let alone the American). Bonami is tight with major Whitney supporter Melva Bucksbaum and served as a judge for the annual Bucksbaum award, something of the Whitney’s Turner prize. (Past winners have included Raymond Pettibon, Omer Fast and Mark Bradford.) But that brings us to another issue. The Bucksbaum family, according to Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, has seen the value of its stake in real-estate giant General Growth plummet to $116 million from $3.2 billion six months ago. Will Melva be as generous going forward with the Whitney — and its downtown expansion plans?