What makes a museum show worth seeing?
Sometimes it is the art itself. Sometimes it is the curation, the way the art is presented. Sometimes, though, the greatness of a show lies in the venue.
MOMA’s current exhibition, “The Artist and Their Studio”, curated by Mark Scala and Ann Temkin, is an example of this kind of last-case scenario. This mind-blowing show features some of the greatest works of modern art from the last century or so in settings that bring them to life in new and exciting ways.
The show takes its title from a collection of prints created in late 19th century France. The idea behind these prints was to give artists a chance to present their studios as works of art themselves, with all manner of bric-a-brac represented – canvases in various stages of completion hanging on the walls, tools strewn about, maybe even the artist at work. (I’m thinking here especially of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s studio.)
So MOMA has recreated this idea for us with spectacular effect by installing each artist’s own studio just as they left it: Picasso’s studio looks like Picasso lived and worked there; Dubuffet’s even
Next to a thousand words? Well, you get one: photography.
The exhibition’s curators, John Szarkowski and Edward Steichen, have picked a handful of photos that they argue changed the way we see.
“When I say ‘changed the way we look at things,’ I don’t mean merely affected the style of seeing but actually changed it,” Steichen said in a videotaped interview included in the show.
Taken together, he said, the pictures “represent a radical change in the human view of its planet.” The exhibition title, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” refers to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book about the solitude of a village amid hundreds of years of history and tradition.
This is how Szarkowski puts it: “In my opinion this is one of those rare shows that will change your life–I know it changed mine.”
When I was a kid, I was told that going to museums was boring and so I never really did. The problem with this of course is that my knowledge of art is limited to what I saw in the few museums I’ve visited and the rest is from Google images. So when a friend invited me to go see an exhibition at MOMA, I thought, why not?
The exhibition title was “Art in the 1st Decade of Mid-Century: Selections from the Whitney Museum of American Art”. The show took place in MOMA’s second floor, which had been entirely closed for about 15 years since the museum expanded its facilities (the space it used to occupy currently houses a cafeteria).
Titled “Museum as Hub: Building Collectives Across Mediums”, this exhibition features works by 24 artists chosen by John Elderfield, Chief Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture at MOMA. These artists are known as some of the most influential and pioneering figures in American art history. Some of their most famous works include Robert Rauschenberg’s Bed (1955), Jasper Johns’ Flag (1954), Ellsworth Kelly’s New York City (1960), and Roy Lichtenstein’s Popeye series.(1963)
The Museum of Modern Art is home to some of the most important artists of the 20th century, and it’s also one of my favorite places to visit in New York City. As a lover of both pop culture and art, I find MOMA to be an exciting place to explore, as it offers a taste of everything from iconic works by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock to photography exhibits by everyone from Cindy Sherman to Henri Cartier-Bresson.
West’s show at MOMA is particularly exciting because it’s not just one artist’s work on display; it’s the first time that all 60+ members of the original CoBrA group have come together for a major museum exhibition. The CoBrA movement was founded in 1948 by a group of young artists who were unhappy with the way modernism was represented in their homeland. They were heavily influenced by surrealism (the movement started when a group of Danish artists met up with members of an avant-garde Parisian surrealist group), but they wanted to create something new.
Titled “CoBrA: The Birth Of An Art Movement,” this exhibition includes works by all 60+ members who were involved with the movement over its 15 year history, including names like Karel App
A lot has been written about Ai Weiwei’s show at the MOMA. Depending on who you ask, it is either a masterpiece or an overhyped dud.
I’m not going to add my two cents to the “is it good” debate. But I do want to talk about something else for a moment — something that I feel is getting far less attention than it deserves: what this show means for museums.
MOMA’s exhibition is the first time one of Ai Weiwei’s works has been shown in the United States, which is surprising considering his worldwide fame and the fact that he is one of China’s most prolific and successful artists. But it isn’t surprising when you consider what has happened in recent years at other museums across the nation: censorship and self-censorship.
The story goes like this: an independent curator, wanting to display an artwork that will generate controversy, commissions a young artist with little or no experience in exhibiting their work in museums (and perhaps little experience in exhibiting their work full stop). The artist submits a piece — perhaps the artist’s most controversial yet — to the museum for their consideration. The museum does not commission the work; they decline to show it, citing political concerns and possible public outrage as
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is currently running a blockbuster exhibition called “Picasso and the Age of Iron.” It is the single most comprehensive Picasso show ever mounted and includes a large number of never-before-seen works.
Including this portrait entitled “Pierre” dated 1901, which was made from an iron plate. The subject of the painting, MOMA says, “appears to have been a young man who worked for a printer or at a newspaper.”
Details about the artist’s life are scarce, but it has been suggested that he may have worked in Paris because his hands are those of someone who did manual labor. He also has facial hair that would have been illegal during Napoleonic times.
MOMA describes what they believe to be the meaning of the painting:
“‘Pierre’ is an elusive image, one that seems to shift between portraits of two men set within one frame: an older man looking off to the left and a younger one turned to face the viewer. Or does this face represent both? Are we faced with an allegory rather than a straightforward depiction? The very title ‘Pierre’ (French for ‘stone’) suggests something solid and durable, yet iron rusts when exposed to air and water.
The Museum of Modern Art is one of the most influential art museums in the world and that is likely to be true whether you live in New York City or not. Many artists, critics and curators who work at other galleries around the world view their own institutions as offshoots of MoMA.
The museum’s exhibition program has had a huge impact on contemporary art since its founding by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller in 1929. Throughout its history, MoMA has been responsible for bringing many different kinds of art to American audiences for the first time.
For example, there are several important galleries that rely on MoMA to educate their audiences about certain movements. Artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning have had tremendous influence on American culture and MoMA has remained a key venue for understanding the development of Abstract Expressionism.
Imagine if you will a world without MoMA or any other major institution that focused on representing new art – this would be a world where most people did not understand what we considered to be modern art until much later in its evolution. The seeds of contemporary art were planted at MoMA and today it continues to be one of the most important places in the world to see new art.