The New Museum started with a revolutionary idea. Marcia Tucker, then a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, noticed a significant curatorial bias towards established and historical works at the expense of living, contemporary artists. She decided to experiment with bringing the same curatorial standards applied to traditional collections to strictly contemporary art--you are unlikely to see anything at the New Museum that was not produced in the last 10 years. After 40 years, the institution--now housed in an iconic piece of modern architecture--has grown to be one of the most vibrant and controversial museums in New York. You may not love everything you see here, but it will be new to you.
I felt that the museum should be many things at once.
What You Will See
The foundational philosophy of the museum precludes any notion of a permanent collection. Instead, the spacious galleries are filled with rotating exhibits featuring recent works by new and established international artists--closer to a SoHo gallery than a Fifth Avenue museum. With five floors and a basement, at least three independent exhibits are on display at any one time, exploring contemporary artistic movements through paintings, sculpture, film, installations, performance, photography, and whatever other media can fit into four walls. Critical consensus is rare for exhibitions at the New Museum; that is exactly the point. This is art presented for your consideration, inviting you to participate in the earliest conversations.
Why You Should Go
This is a high-risk, high-reward museum. You could spend the entire day here and not find something you like--or you might discover a transformative collection by your new favorite artist. The works on display have not yet passed through the purification of decades of criticism, analysis, auction, and curation. Many of the exhibits contain work on display for the first time or commissioned specifically for the space. You come to the New Museum not to bask in the aura of acknowledged masters, but to explore, to converse, and to discover the next generation of revolutionary artists. What you see here may enter the collections of the MoMA or the Breuer next decade.