NEW YORK MUSEUMS GEAR UP FOR 2010
What’s the latest line in the New York City contemporary art museum sweepstakes? The New Museum, reborn on the Bowery on Dec. 1, 2007, had been riding pretty high with the headline-grabbing "Younger than Jesus," Apr. 8-June 14, 2009. More recently, however, the museum has been knocked down a peg, after bad reviews greeted its current Urs Fischer installation, Oct. 21, 2009-Feb. 7, 2010, and its decision to present selections by artist Jeff Koons from the Dakis Joannou Collection, Mar. 3-June 6, 2010, as the inaugural presentation of its new "Imaginary Museum" series.
It just so happens that the big Dakis blow-out coincides with spring survey shows at several other New York City museums. The lineup has just been announced for the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Feb. 25-May 30, 2010, organized by globetrotting curator Francesco Bonami and the untested Gary Carrion-Murayari. The list of 55 artists is relatively small, and represents a grab-bag of unknowns, odd balls, trendy contemporary artists (Bruce High Quality, Tauba Auerbach) and senior figures (Michael Asher, James Casebere, George Condo, Robert Grosvenor). If the 2010 Whitney Biennial has a theme, it’s one that remains elusive, at least at this stage.
The Whitney once ruled the contemporary art scene in New York City, on the museum level. Now, with shows like "Georgia O’Keeffe," Sept. 17, 2009-Jan. 17, 2010, and "Charles Burchfield," opening June 24, 2010, the museum has all but dropped out of the race for avant-garde supremacy.
It’s worth noting that the 2010 biennial is determinedly New York-centric, with 30 out of 55 artists, or 54 percent, living in the city -- especially since the show is likely to go head-to-head with the next installment of "Greater New York" at P.S.1. Though the Museum of Modern Art has not officially announced any dates, it’s likely to open in spring 2010. The curatorial team includes media and performance art curator Klaus Biesenbach, drawing curator Connie Butler and P.S.1 curatorial advisor Neville Wakefield, and should give Bonami a run for his money.
Sitting out the survey sweepstakes is the Guggenheim Museum, which under new director Richard Armstrong is nevertheless fast cementing its reputation for having the most hard-core avant-garde program of all the city’s museums. It kicks off 2010 with an exhibition in the museum rotunda by Tino Sehgal, Jan. 29-Mar. 10, 2010, which leaves the museum’s signature space, including Wright’s spiraling ramps, entirely empty for six weeks. Instead, Sehgal is mounting two performances, one "choreographic and sculptural" on the rotunda floor, and a second involving "participatory conversations" on the spiraling ramp. Magisterially, the artist has decreed that no documentation of the event is allowed.
The Gugg schedule does include, however, two spring exhibitions that survey new art, though both are organized around principles rather more complicated than "the newest thing going." The first is "Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum," Feb. 12-Apr. 28, 2010, for which chief curator Nancy Spector and architecture and design curator David van der Leer invited 200 artists, architects and designers to "imagine their dream interventions" in the Gugg rotunda space, with the resulting renderings to be displayed salon-style. Most of the participating artists -- who include Ai Weiwei, Sarah Morris, Wangechi Mutu, Paul Pfeiffer, Doris Salcedo, Lawrence Weiner and Rachel Whiteread -- have donated their works for a fundraising auction on Mar. 4, 2010.
Six weeks later, the Gugg opens "Haunted: Contemporary Photography / Video / Performance," Mar. 26-Sept. 6, 2010, which is organized by photo curator Jennifer Blessing and associate curator Nat Trotman. "Haunted" surveys art since the ‘60s that seems to view history with melancholy or mourning, by a wide range of artists, including Bernd and Hilla Becher, Christian Boltanski, Stan Douglas, An-My Lê, Gregory Crewdson, Nate Lowman, Cady Noland, Adam McEwen, Richard Prince and Hiroshi Sugimoto.
The Gugg displays its conceptual-art bona fides with the shortlist of six artists for the Hugo Boss Prize 2010 -- though unfortunately the museum will exhibit only the work of the winner, in 2011. The finalists, who are a notably global bunch, include Cao Fei, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Roman Ondák, Walid Raad and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.
In the meantime, the Guggenheim schedule for 2010 also includes two shows of a more art-historical sort: "Paris and the Avant-Garde: Modern Masters from the Guggenheim Collection," Jan. 23-May 12, 2010; and "Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy and Germany 1918-1936," Oct. 1, 2010-Jan. 9, 2011.