2014 preview in art
From medieval stained-glass windows to giant mirrored balloon dogs, there’s something for everyone this coming year in art
Wed Jan 15 2014
When it comes to presenting the best art in the world, New York is a perennial gold mine of offerings, and this year, the city’s museums promise a mother lode of firsts—and lasts. Among the former are first ever comprehensive surveys in the U.S. of Italian Futurism (at the Guggenheim), and of such international art legends as Brazilian artist Lygia Clark (at MoMA) and Chinese superstar Ai Wei Wei (at the Brooklyn Museum). On top of that, The Metropolitan Museum is bringing in medieval stained-glass windows from Canterbury Cathedral to The Cloisters, while the Neue Galerie New York looks back at Nazism’s bizarre effort to discredit modern art. As for lasts, look to the Whitney, which host its final shows at its Madison Avenue location—the 2014 Biennial and Jeff Koons—before decamping to new digs in MePA.
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Painting, sculpture, architecture, design, ceramics, fashion, film, photography, advertising, free-form poetry, publications, music, theater, and performance—Italian Futurism encompassed all of these and more as one of the most dynamic, controversial and unpredictable movements in early Modern art. More so than their Cubist contemporaries in Paris, the artists of Futurism celebrated the revolutionary furor and breakneck technological pace of life in the nascent 20th century, embracing its contractions and its frequent descents into violence. This expansive overview is the first undertaking of its kind in the United States, and should prove to be an eye-opener.
Six magnificent stained-glass windows from England's legendary Canterbury Cathedral will winter this year at the Cloisters—the first time these masterpieces of Romanesque art have left home since they were created between 1178 and 1180. Measuring up to 12 feet in height, the windows feature the biblical figures, including Abraham, who were considered to be the ancestors of Christ, part of a series that originally numbered 86 works in all.
This year’s edition of the exhibition once known as the show everybody loves to hate represents a departure for a couple of reasons. For one, it will be the last Biennial mounted in the Whitney’s current home; in 2015, the museum moves into its brand-new Renzo Piano designed building in the Meatpacking District. But it also signals a departure from form because it’s basically organized as three separate shows on as many floors by three outside curators. If nothing else, the Whitney is thinking outside the box as the Biennial says goodbye to Madison Avenue.
This survey of more than 100 works in painting, sculpture and photography highlights the response of artists—both African-American and white—to what was arguably the greatest upheaval in American history since the Civil War. The show includes 66 contributors in all, among them Richard Avedon, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Norman Rockwell—a selection that demonstrates the wide cross-section of artists reacting to the struggle for civil rights.
Paul Gauguin is famous for being the stockbroker who abandoned his middle-class life and family, running off and transforming his avocation as a Sunday painter into a full-blown mission (and changing the course of art history in the process). As important as painting obviously was to Gauguin, however, this exhibit argues that his efforts in printmaking and drawing were just as significant. The show collects some 130 examples of the artist's graphic works (along with a much smaller sampling of canvases and sculptural objects), with the aim of understanding this lesser-known aspect of his oeuvre.
With all of the horrors of Nazism, it's easy to forget that the Third Reich was at heart an aesthetic project, dedicated to perpetuating a ideology of racial superiority that was often couched in visual terms. This included a restoration of a German kultur untainted by the influence of Judaism and modernism, which were essentially seen as intertwined. The Neue Galerie revisits a watershed moment in that effort: The 1937 "Entartete Kunst" —or Degenerate Art—exhibition mounted by the Nazis in Munich. Using examples of Fauvism, Cubism and German Expressionism confiscated from public and private collections, the show mocked the works and compared them unfavorably to the classical realism preferred by Hitler—who had himself been a failed artist before dragging the world into the abyss. The Neue Galerie presents some 60 pieces in this fascinating look at one of the most notorious episodes in art history.
This first New York retrospective of the famed Chinese artist and dissident lands in the Borough of Kings, bringing with it the American debut of S.A.C.R.E.D., a monumental installation that wowed at the Venice Biennale in 2013. Based on Ai Weiwei’s imprisonment by Chinese authorities over 81 days, the work comprises six iron boxes, each containing a life-size fiberglass diorama depicting a scene from the artist’s incarceration. These tableaux were reconstructed from memory and show the artist being interrogated or watched carefully by guards as he eats, sleeps and goes to the bathroom. This tour de force is joined by other works, including a site-specific installation of bicycles.
Surely one of the towering figures of postwar art, Polke (1941–2010) is feted here in a major retrospective, spanning nearly five decades of his prodigious output—from his days as cofounder of Capitalist Realism (along with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg) until his death three years ago. A shape-shifter of styles and mediums, Polke created work that was a delirious mélange of Pop Art and painterly Expressionism, often eschewing canvas for more unconventional materials, such as printed fabrics and nylon mesh. He was, rather like Robert Rauschenberg, the sort of artist whose work practically inhaled the world around it, making anything seem possible.
Brazilian artist Lygia Clark (1920–1988) wasn’t particularly well known to American audiences during her lifetime, but then neither was much of art being produced during the postwar era in Brazil, or, for that matter, the rest of South America. Yet during the 1960s and ’70s, the Brazilian art scene, in particular, was a hotbed of radical innovation thanks to the Neo-Concretist movement, of which Clark was a leading figure. This MoMA retrospective of the multimedia artist represents the first comprehensive examination in North America of her work, and surveys everything from her efforts in painting and sculpture to her self-styled “abandonment” of art, as she made her move into a unique form of conceptualism that grew out of a lengthy period of psychoanalysis.
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to ignore Jeff Koons. From his vacuum cleaners sealed in Plexiglas cases to his monumental balloon dog sculptures, Koons has displayed a knack for showmanship that is probably unrivaled in the history of American art. This 30-year survey of Koons’s greatest hits represents the Whitney’s valedictory exhibition at the Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue. To that end, it gives over the entire place to Koons—a first for any artist. Don’t worry about him being able to fill it.
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