Sarah Michelson Wins the Whitney’s Melva Bucksbaum Award


British-born choreographer Sarah Michelson has won the Bucksbaum Award, bestowed every two years to one of the artists in the Whitney Biennial. Michelson will receive a $100,000 grant.

Based in New York, Michelson was commissioned by the Whitney to produce her piece, Devotion Study #1—The American Dancer, set on the museum’s fourth floor, an open gallery that serves as center stage for all the Biennial’s performance art.

The 90-minute-long dance begins with a lone figure, Nicole Mannarino, moving in a repetitive, backward circling motion, her arms outstretched. As time goes on, four other dancers enter one by one. There is very little variation in the choreography, save for those times that motion comes to a complete standstill. A sixth dancer, wearing a horse’s head (a reference to Michelson’s 2009 work Dover Beach) appears briefly, and the dancers exit in the order they appeared, leaving Mannarino alone once again.

Michelson is the seventh recipient of the Bucksbaum award, established in 2000 by Melva Bucksbaum, a Whitney trustee since 1996. Recent winners include Omer Fast (2008) and Michael Asher (2010). The 2012 Whitney Biennial remains on view through May 27.