The New Museum was founded in 1977. It’s dedicated solely to contemporary art—an idea I find interesting since MoMA now feels historical, a tribute to Modernism, which I think probably came to an end some time late in the last century.
I’d never heard of this museum until it started getting plenty of press in the art world for its new building that opened just over a year ago. The new building is cool, particularly with Ugo Rondinone’s installation Hell, Yes appearing on the exterior. It’s on display through July of this year.
The museum was at the top of my destination list partly to see its critically acclaimed building and partly to see an intriguing exhibition. That show was Younger than Jesus, the first edition of the museum’s signature triennial, The Generational. The exhibit features 50 artists from 25 countries all of whom are 33 or younger, the age of Jesus when he died.
I like this idea. Let’s face it; if you want to pick a person who only lived to 33 and had a major impact on the world, Jesus has to be at the top of the list, even if you don’t agree with where his current followers have taken his teachings. So why not judge artists by that standard? What have you accomplished by age 33?
I will admit, much of this show felt messy. This seems to be a generation that lives for “do-it-yourself” work. Production values don’t seem to matter much. Many works feature amateur videos that are more about the content than about making something you really want to watch. And there are found objects that make the works of Marcel Duchamp look opulent. But what the hell, there was enough crazy art that I was perfectly satisfied. And let’s face it, Jeff Koons started out showing vacuum cleaners and now he produces some of the most opulent works in the art world. With that in mind, here are a few of the artworks that I found most interesting.
Buying Everything Off You
Beijing artist Liu Chuang approaches people on the street and asks to buy everything on them. And I mean everything, right down to their skivvies. Here those items are displayed as if a strange marketing research project to determine consumer preferences or an anthropology study documenting the traditions of a lost culture.
Crease II, 2009
Tauer Auerback created this painting in acrylic and inkjet on canvas. The photo doesn’t show how irritating this work is to look out. It totally freaks out your eyes. It’s very cool.
This is Ingrid, 2009
Suddenly, things just got a little creepy at the New Museum. The medium for Chu Yun’s work is listed as “Female participant, sleeping pill, and bed.” The name of the work changes during the course of the show because a rotating group of paid, female volunteers ingest sleeping pills and sleep through portions of the museum’s hours. So the work is named after the woman in the bed. There are a lot of ways to read this work. But I couldn’t help thinking about a man giving a woman drugs in order to get her into bed—even if it is for art. This is provocative work. It affected me—and that’s what art should do.
Installation (Banana peel), 2008
Yes, that’s a real live banana peel lying on the floor. Why? Well, because Mexican artist Adriana Lara likes to create conceptual works that “conflate institutional critique and Surrealism, introducing an idiosyncratic kind of mysticism into the exhibition space.” Whatever the hell that means. For this work, Lara instructs a museum employee to eat a banana each morning and discard its peel somewhere in the exhibition space. OK, its ridiculous. But I totally fell for it. It made me happy. I love it.
This Consequence, 2005-08
The thing I love about contemporary art is the medium listings on the cards. This work by Ryan Gander is listed as, “Tracksuit with embroidered stains, worn by gallery attendants.” And so, here’s our friendly gallery attendant wearing a tracksuit with embroidered stains. Discuss.