Sarah Michelson: Whitney Stories

From Dancing in Museums: A Decade of Movement

In a landmark moment for dance in museums, the choreographer Sarah Michelson took over a four-thousand-square-foot gallery at the 2012 Whitney Biennial for the second part of her “Devotion” series, Devotion Study #1: The American Dancer. The monumental and mesmerizing work, which displayed, as she says in this video, “the dancer’s devotion to dance,” earned her the 2012 Bucksbaum Award: $100,000 and a commission to create another work for the Whitney. The prize, established in 2000 and granted to one artist in each biennial, had never before gone to a choreographer.

This short interview—a rarity for Michelson, who tends toward protectiveness of her own image and images of her dances—highlights the intimate connections between her work and where it is performed, its deeply considered site-specificity. For both of her Whitney commissions, the design of the floor—the dancers’ foundation—took inspiration from the building itself, first from blueprints of the museum and then from the color palette of the fourth-floor gallery tiles. Michelson herself painted the floor for 4 (2014), together with the curatorial team of Jay Sanders and Greta Hartenstein, evidence of the choreographer’s devotion to dance.

December 7, 2019

Whitney Museum of American Art

Curated by

Siobhan Burke