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.
Jordan Casteel has exhibited her work around New York City, including on Governors Island, at the Ford Foundation, and in the Studio Museum. But this exhibit at the New Museum, featuring dozens of her large scale paintings, is her first solo show in New York. Her portrait subjects explore the daily Black experience in New York and America.
Peter Saul has been producing intricate, colorful pop art since the 1950s. Yet somehow he had never received a museum survey in New York City until this exhibition at the New Museum. With over 60 paintings spanning five decades, you will leaving knowing Peter Saul and his journey across the twentieth century very well.
The unique title of this exhibition is a reference to the self-replication abilities of lichen. Daiga Grantina draws inspiration from such natural phenomenon in her large-scale installations. The sculptures hang from the ceiling in the lobby gallery. Grantina was born in Latvia, studied in Germany and lives in Paris. This is her first American solo exhibition.
The latest in the New Museum's Screen Series features work by the Moroccan artist Randa Maroufi. The artist's short films explore the "banality and absurdity of daily life." Of particular note is her short film BAB SEBTA, which is a reconstruction of the commercial activity on the Morrocan border, complete with multi-lingual voiceovers.
The New Museum celebrates its reopening with a renewal of one of its original commissioned exhibitions. As part of the opening of the New Museum at its current Bowery location in 2007, the museum commissioned multi-media and performance artist Sharon Hayes. While the original work took place as a series of public performances, this exhibition presents recordings of the 2007 performances.