Art scene in New York

I had the chance to visit New York in December and early January of this year. It was quite a long journey coming from Asia but I had good reasons to visit. New York’s art scene is one of the most vibrant in the world. It attracts a large pool of artists from around the world which made me excited about this trip.

1.  MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). The Museum of Modern Art’s mission is to encourage an ever-deeper understanding and enjoyment of modern and contemporary art by the diverse local, national, and international audiences that it serves. In this visit, the most interesting is the works of Francis Picabia. Francis Picabia was a French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist. After experimenting with Impressionism and Pointillism, Picabia became associated with Cubism. His highly abstract planar compositions were colourful and rich in contrasts.

2.  Art can  be seen on different parts of New York. Street art originated from the graffiti art boom of the early 1980s. Stencil graffiti, wheat-pasted poster art or sticker art, and street installation or sculpture are common forms of modern street art.

On several occasions, I see most of my friends in New York posting pictures of wall murals. I was lucky to see some of them in Bushwick and Williamsburg.

3.  Guggenheim Museum. I am fascinated by the architecture of the building. It was known as the most beautiful building in America in 1959. At the time of my visit Agnes Martin’s exhibit was dominating the scene. There are small portions of the museum that I find more interesting and most of them are from international artists. For example the robotic arm entitled Can’t help Myself 2016 by Sun Yuan & Peng Yu. Sun Yuan and Peng Yu studied oil painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. After participating in pathbreaking exhibitions in China, they rose to prominence as independent artists in the late 1990s, and formed a collaborative partnership in 2000. Since then, they have incorporated unconventional, organic materials, including live animals and human fat, into their practice, which crosses mediums and challenges systems of political and social authority. Their large installations, which often incorporate technological components, comment critically on the modern understanding and exercise of political constructs like the nation-state, sovereign territory, freedom, and democracy.

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4. Park Avenue Armory. Part palace, part industrial shed, Park Avenue Armory fills a critical void in the cultural ecology of New York by enabling artists to create—and audiences to experience—unconventional work that cannot be mounted in traditional performance halls and museums. During my visit, I was lucky to see Manifesto before it ended in January 8. A brilliant, 2015 Australian-German multi-screen film installation written, produced and directed by Julian Rosefeldt. It features Cate Blanchett in 13 different roles performing various manifestos. I like how it was set up in a huge space, with benches and seats comfortable enough to watch different scenes you can start whichever movie you want to start with. There is a part of the film that syncs to the rest of the other films. It was cleverly set up in a way that you are not just fully engaged in one scene, but it makes you aware that you are also a part of a much bigger scene.

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5. Seen La La Land in Alamo Drafthouse NYC. I’m quite jealous of  my friends in NYC because of the great movies shown in the cinemas. The selection of movies is diverse which makes people more open-minded about different views. It’s different in Australia, Moscow, Taiwan, Singapore and in the Philippines, wherein the movie selection is filtered.

6.  MoMA PS1 is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit contemporary art institutions in the United States. An exhibition space rather than a collecting institution, MoMA PS1 devotes its energy and resources to displaying the most experimental art in the world. During my visit, they featured Mark Leckey’s works. Mark Leckey is a British artist, working with collage art, music and video. The most enjoyable part of the exhibit for me is the humongous inflatable Felix the cat. It reminds me of my childhood. Overall it was a great exhibit, they made it in a way that lets you open secret doors into the creative mind of Mark Leckey.

7.  Museum of Arts and Design. MAD champions contemporary makers across creative fields, presenting artists, designers, and artisans who apply the highest level of ingenuity and skill to their work. Since the Museum’s founding in 1956 by philanthropist and visionary Aileen Osborn Webb, MAD has celebrated all facets of making and the creative processes by which materials are transformed, from traditional techniques to cutting-edge technologies.

I was delighted to see artist workshops in the museum. If you are lucky, you can interact with them. There are different exhibits in each floor. I find most interesting is the work of the Wertheim sisters.  Mixing crocheted yarn with plastic trash, the work fuses mathematics, marine biology, feminist art practices, and craft to produce large-scale coralline landscapes. “Crochet Coral Reef” offers a tender response to the dual calamities facing marine life: climate change and plastic trash.

8.  Hyped by ideas and intrigued, I wanted to see my instagram friend’s (Gamar Markarian and colleagues) work in Parsons School of Design. Parsons enables students to develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing society. Students collaborate with peers throughout The New School, industry partners, and communities around the world and in New York City, a global center of art, design, and business.

At the time of my visit, Roxy Paine’s Dinner of the Dictators, 1993-1995, returns to campus after a year-long loan to the Natura Naturans exhibition in Villa Panza, Varese, Italy. It was a delight to see what preserved food looks like in a glass box. Dinner assembles the favored meals of twelve historical figures the artist has classified as dictators – from Genghis Khan to Papa Doc Duvalier. Through the lens of food, power and politics, this exhibition expands Paine’s initial inquiry, asking The New School community to further consider the historic, economic and sociopolitical implications of food. In response to this, researched and designed by The New School faculty Chris London and Parsons Design and Urban Ecologies graduates Shibani Jadhav, Gamar Markarian and Silvia Xavier, the work focuses on the pervasive growth of three corporate giants, Nestlé, Coca Cola and Kellogg, and their control of three key crops: coffee, corn and sugar.

9. The Whitney Museum of American Art presents the full range of twentieth-century and contemporary American art, with a special focus on works by living artists. The most memorable for me is the sculpture by Urs Fischer’s friend named “Standing Julian”. A portrait of fellow artist Julian Schnabel. The massive sculpture is also a wax candle: lit every morning and extinguished each night, Standing Julian will slowly melt over the course of Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection. Although this candle will eventually burn down and be discarded, the sculpture can also be recast and lit anew. As Fischer explains, his waxworks allow “materials and images to take on their own life.”

10.  New Museum. The New Museum began as an idea in the mind of founding Director Marcia Tucker. When Tucker officially founded the New Museum on January 1, 1977, it was the first museum devoted to contemporary art established in New York City since the Second World War. Positioned between a traditional museum and an alternative space, the New Museum’s mission was to be a catalyst for a broad dialogue between artists and the public by establishing “an exhibition, information, and documentation center for contemporary art made within a period of approximately ten years prior to the present.” The Museum presented the work of living artists who did not yet have wide public exposure or critical acceptance to a broader public.

I had a deja vu during this visit cause it reminded me of the recent triennial I went to in Japan (Setouchi Triennale) as to which Pipilloti Rist is a participant.  Pipilotti is a visual artist who works with video, film, and moving images which are often displayed as projections. Her exhibit offered comfort and delight as winter progressed in New York.

From all the beautiful things I’ve seen, my favorites are Manifesto shown in Park Avenue armory and Pipilloti’s exhibit in New Museum. Both were interactive and immersive. I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I do. If you need a map of all the places I’ve been to, please check out my recommendations in FourSquare.

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