With so many art museums in NYC (including The Met, MoMA and the Guggenheim), it’s easy to sometimes overlook one of the city’s largest and most venerable institutions: the Brooklyn Museum. With roots dating back to the 1840s, the Brooklyn Museum sits along Eastern Parkway in a resplendent Beaux-Arts building designed by McKim, Mead & White, the Gilded Age architectural firm behind the Morgan Museum and Library and the original Pennsylvania Station torn down in 1963. It has encyclopedic holdings spanning Antiquity to the present. And each year, it presents a world-class line-up of exhibitions that draw upon both the collection and loans from other major museums. These have included shows on Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei. The museum’s exhibit schedule also include forays into history, fashion and pop culture, like its hugely popular look back at the career of David Bowie. The museum’s current and upcoming offerings are no less exciting, as you’ll see in our guide to the best exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum.
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Exhibits on view at the Brooklyn Museum
Space-Age fashion was never so space-y as it was in the hands of Cardin, whose bold, futuristic designs brought a Jetsonian aesthetic to the runway. Unisex bodysuits, vinyl miniskirts and visored headgear were just part of a mad, mod look that also extended to Cardin’s line of furnishings and accessories. A selection of 170 objects drawn from Cardin’s atelier and archive traces his career from the 1960s to today.
Winogrand (1928–1984) was a pioneer of the snapshot aesthetic that took hold of photography during the 1960s. He was renowned for his street photography, most it taken in NYC, which subtly blended the surreal into the everyday. These photos were black-and-white, but Winogrand also shot in color, using slide film to produce some 45,000 images in all. A selection of them is presented here as an installation of projections that bring to life this lesser known aspect of his career.
This year has seen a series of Golden-Anniversary celebrations of seminal events (the moon landing, Woodstock), but none of them had a more profound long-term effect on society than the Stonewall Riots, which launched the modern gay rights movement five decades ago. To measure its continuing impact, 28 LGBTQ+ artists, born after 1969, look back on Stonewall’s legacy and the world—their world—to which it gave birth.
Street art’s earliest manifestation—graffiti—began in the 1970s as a form of self-affirmation by teenagers from the Bronx and Brooklyn (which is to say, culturally marginalized individuals), who put their stamp on NYC with tags that were essentially elaborately written autographs, many of them mural-size. Some 20 years later, a French artist going by JR put a new spin on street art by including members of the public in it. He took photos of ordinary people around the world, and then pasted enlarged versions of their images on the sides of buildings as well on political hot spots such as the wall separating Israel from Palestine, and the fence along the Mexican–U.S. border. This show marks the first major exhibition in North America of JR’s multi-disciplinary work, which also includes videos, films and dioramas.
One of China’s most important artists, Xu Bing lived in Brooklyn during the 1990s, and still keeps a studio there. During his sojourn in the Borough Of Kings, Xu, a conceptualist who specializes in large-scale installations, devised a writing system that inscribed English words in a manner recalling Chinese characters. This method, which he calls Square Word Calligraphy, is employed here to pay tribute to Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” in a painting commissioned by the Brooklyn Museum in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.
Often given pride of place in the Brooklyn Museum’s lobby, Kehinde Wiley's Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps from 2005 is a vivid re-conception of Jacques-Louis David’s 1801 masterpiece of the same name. In his version, Wiley has supplanted the image of the French Emperor on horseback with that of a young, similarly posed African-American man dressed in street-smart regalia. Now the two magisterial canvases go mano-a-mano, as David’s original travels from France to hang alongside Wiley’s meditation on how notions of race, power and masculinity influence portraiture and the writing of history.