Ever since the formidable Marcia Tucker opened the doors of her first exhibition—in a humble borrowed loft in Tribeca four decades ago—the New Museum has been a space where trailblazing artists test their skills and advance new ideas and perspectives.
Back in 1977, museums were meant to preserve the past, not to foretell the future; opening one dedicated to contemporary art by living artists was a truly radical idea. Thankfully, that radical idea took root, forever changing our conception of what makes for “good” art and allowing generations of young artists to be inspired by the “new.” Forty years later, the New Museum basks in its own spectacular steel tower on the Bowery—and is still the only one of its kind in NYC.
By focusing on important but under-recognized artists and emerging talents, the museum has had a knack for inspiring spirited debate and discussion. It seems fitting, then, that the curators are honoring its 40th anniversary by hosting a two-day event of…debate and discussion. On Saturday, December 2, and Sunday, December 3, the museum welcomes 40 distinguished artists whose works have shaped its history and place in the city. These artists will engage in 20 separate lively conversations covering whatever may come up—insights into their practice, their personal trajectories with the museum, the current state of culture and art, and beyond. Us? We get to listen in.
The lineup of art stars includes Paweł Althamer, George Condo, Carroll Dunham, Mary Heilmann, Joan Jonas, Jeff Koons, Paul McCarthy, Donald Moffett, Dorothea Rockburne, Martha Rosler, Anri Sala, Doris Salcedo, and Carolee Schneemann.
The title of the dialogue series, “Who’s Afraid of the New Now?,” borrows from a work by the pioneering American conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg, who had his first New York survey at the New Museum in 1985. On Sunday, Ruppersberg will be at the museum in the flesh, chatting with portraitist Elizabeth Peyton for a look back and, of course, a look forward.
Artistic director Massimiliano Gioni says other pairings were made to show different dynamics while working in similar spaces, so there’s Raymond Pettibon and Kaari Upson, who both engage with the darker side of American culture; Paul McCarthy and Andra Ursuta, with taboos and the representation of bodies and traumas; Lorraine O’Grady and Simone Leigh, in social practice; and Joan Jonas and Carol Bove, in sculpture and abstraction. “I am really looking forward to the conversation between Hans Haacke and Carsten Hoeller,” says Gioni. “They are two German artists who have emerged, respectively, in the 1960s and in the 1990s, and whose work often requires the collaboration of the audience.”
And then there’s the inextricable link between the museum and the city of New York, both backdrop and muse. “Artists active in this place at the same time create a sort of oral history of a particular moment in time,” says Gioni. “So, for example, Jeff Koons and George Condo will help us rediscover the East Village of the 1980s, while Donald Moffett and Nari Ward will reconnect to the late 1980s and early 1990s and present different ways in which artists were seeking to connect to different audiences and create new forms of participation.”
The museum will have extended hours—from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.—on these two days, and all visitors will be granted free admission, which includes entry to the current lineup of noteworthy exhibitions, including “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon,” “Kahlil Joseph: Shadow Play,” “Petrit Halilaj: RU,“ “Helen Johnson: Ends,” “Alex Da Corte: Harvest Moon,” and “Pursuing the Unpredictable: The New Museum 1977–2017.”
Why You Should Go: To see the future, why else? Free admission to the museum’s exhibitions is just icing on the groundbreaking museum’s birthday cake.
Who’s Afraid of the New Now?: 40 Artists in Dialogue
235 Bowery (between Stanton and Rivington Streets), Lower East Side
Saturday, December 2, and Sunday, December 3
10 a.m.–8 p.m.
$5 for each conversation
Now that you’ve saved $18 on admission, spend it on dinner or a few drinks on the Lower East Side.