21: Selections of Contemporary Art from the Brooklyn Museum 21: Selections of Contemporary Art from the Brooklyn Museum highlights recent acquisitions and presents them alongside notable works that entered the collection over the past four decades. As the title suggests, the Museum’s contemporary collecting focuses on art of the twentyfirst century, which has seen the rise of Brooklyn as one of the most vibrant centers of cultural production in the world. Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Dumbo—now established artists’ enclaves—have given way to Red Hook, Bed Stuy, the Gowanus Canal, and Bushwick as frontiers that offer artists prospects for affordable studio spaces. While 21 features homegrown (and often internationally recognized) talent, it also represents a new twenty-first-century breed of globetrotting artists who travel to create work in cities around the world.
The exhibition opens with three iconic pieces by Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, and Nari Ward that engage with both history and contemporary culture. The figure continues as the subject of Amy Sillman’s 30 Drawings, a personal meditation on life and memory, and of Fred Wilson’s Grey Area and Hew Locke’s Koh-i-noor, polemic portraits with political dimensions.
Landscape, another major theme in the collection, dominates the next gallery. Roxy Paine’s boxed tree explores the tension between nature and the manmade environment. A similar notion of constructed and imaginary landscape is evident in Anthony Goicolea’s Ice Storm. Valerie Hegarty’s Fallen Bierstadt investigates the demise of the heroic tradition of American landscape painting, whereas Simon Norfolk’s large-scale photogravures capture geopolitical landscapes in different parts of the world. In his Cartographic Series, Olafur Eliasson surveys the Icelandic terrain and transforms landscape into almost an abstract sign, a quality emphasized by the gridlike organization of the individual images. Similar geometric constructs, purely formal or imbued with cultural significance, are explored nearby in Seher Shah’s architectural drawing, Terence Koh’s irregular grid, Do-ho Suh’s modular welcome mat, and the works by Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Rashid Johnson, and Mark Bradford.
Occupying its own room, the installation of Kehinde Wiley’s Passing/Posing paintings becomes a chapel, complete with an illusionistic ceiling, dedicated to the secular pursuit of basketball. Finally, in the adjoining room, Kiki Smith’s fantastic wallpaper Maiden and Moonflower envelops a gallery filled with art that examines domesticity, a theme that also refers to the Museum’s adjacent period rooms.
The Brooklyn Museum has collected contemporary art since the mid-nineteenth century, when a bequest from Augustus Graham, the Museum’s founding father, endowed a Gallery of Fine Arts and provided funds for the annual purchase of works of art by living American artists. In 1855 the initial commission went to Asher B. Durand, whose painting The First Harvest in the Wilderness inaugurated the Museum’s collection. 21: Selections of Contemporary Art from the Brooklyn Museum demonstrates this institution’s continuing commitment to living artists and to collecting distinctive art of our time.
John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art
Associate Curator of Photography
July 4, 2008
More than forty works from the Brooklyn Museum’s expanding collection of contemporary art will go on long-term view on September 19, 2008, in 5,000 square feet of space newly renovated for this purpose. With contemporary works ranging from Andy Warhol’s Fragile Dress, 1966, to Mickalene Thomas’s A Little Taste Outside of Love, 2007, 21: Selections of Contemporary Art from the Brooklyn Museum will focus primarily on work produced since 2000, particularly from the richly diverse artistic community of Brooklyn.
This installation marks the first time in a decade that the Museum has dedicated space to the long-term display of selections of its collection of contemporary art and reflects a renewed emphasis on the acquisition and presentation of recent works.
The Museum’s director Arnold L. Lehman states, “The revitalized contemporary art program at Brooklyn is managed by an exceptional team of curatorial specialists under the leadership of Eugenie Tsai, the John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art. With the generous support of a number of the Museum’s Trustees and friends, this team has already made remarkable progress in acquiring important new works with a particular emphasis on works made in the twenty-first century and created by artists of color. At the same time, our curators have taken a strong lead in the presentation of the Museum’s dynamic exhibition program.”
Among the recently acquired works in the contemporary installation will be a painting by the Miami-based artist Hernan Bas titled Night Fishing, which will also be included in the Museum’s forthcoming exhibition on the artist, on view February 27–May 24, 2009; a sculpture by Kara Walker titled Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching, 2006, that explores racial stereotyping through imagery drawn from the antebellum South; the Brooklyn artist Valerie Hegarty’s painting Fallen Bierstadt, inspired by the Museum’s renowned work by Albert Bierstadt, A Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie; a mixed-media sculpture by the Jamaican artist Hew Locke titled Koh-i-Noor, similar to another version of the subject in the Museum’s recent exhibition Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art; and twenty-five photogravures by Olafur Eliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist, who is showing New York City Waterfall, a public art project currently on view in the East River. Other artists represented include Amy Sillman, Kiki Smith, Nari Ward, Chester Higgins Jr., Sol LeWitt, Kehinde Wiley, Terence Koh, Seher Shah, Simon Norfolk, Jules de Balincourt, Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg, and Do-Ho Suh. A new installation of three wax sculptures by New York artist Petah Coyne will be on view in the fifth-floor lobby gallery August 6, 2008, through July 2009, to coincide with the opening of the new contemporary galleries. Two of the three sculptures are recent gifts that will be on view for the first time.
The Brooklyn Museum has collected contemporary art since the mid-nineteenth century when a bequest from Augustus Graham, one of the Museum’s founders, endowed a “Gallery of Fine Arts” accompanied by funds allocated for the annual purchase of works of art by living American artists. In 1855 the initial commission went to Asher B. Durand, whose painting The First Harvest in the Wilderness inaugurated the Museum’s collection. In the early twentieth century, the Museum continued to acquire contemporary art, and in 1934 it established a Department of Contemporary Art. Contemporary works were exhibited in galleries in the West Wing in the 1990s. Since 2001, contemporary art has been integrated into galleries throughout the Museum, especially in American Identities: A New Look.
The contemporary galleries installation is organized by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, and Patrick Amsellem, Associate Curator of Photography.
Two additional contemporary exhibitions will be presented this fall: Jesper Just: Romantic Delusions, on view September 19, 2008 through January 4, 2009, organized by Patrick Amsellem; and Gilbert & George, on view October 3, 2008 through January 11, 2009, coordinated by Judy Kim, Curator of Exhibitions.
A variety of public programs will be presented in conjunction with the opening of the new galleries and will be featured on the Museum’s Web site at www.brooklynmuseum.org.