Art Collectives Were the Talk of the Art World in the Last Few Years. Has Their Moment Passed?

Artist collectives are by no means new phenomena. Still, their presence in the art world has been largely fringe, only rarely intersecting with mainstream notions of commercial success and celebrity clout. Recently, however, as museums in particular came under pressure to address social change, ideas like “collective action” and “mutual aid” have seized the spotlight.

For a moment it seemed as if the notion of cooperation might outbid competition in the art world. Suddenly, collectives were among the art world’s ascendant stars. The question is if this moment is now over.

A series of notable institutional appointments marked the end of the last decade, and seemed to signify an end—or at least a re-thinking—of art-world individualism. In 2019, Indonesian art collective Ruangrupa was named to head up the prestigious German exhibition Documenta, seemingly touching off a new era. Their concept? To base their show on collective creativity from the Global South, creating “a collective of collectives.”

That same year, the Turner Prize shortlisted four individual artists who decided to meld into a flash art collective for the purposes of accepting the esteemed prize, flying in the face of the art-world winner-take-all premise. How outdated and selfish individual prize winners suddenly seemed.

Naturally, as a next step, only collectives were shortlisted in the subsequent edition of the Turner Prize, in 2021. Canada’s own version of the Turner, the Sobey Art award, declared that same year that the two dozen artists shortlisted were all winners. The cash was distributed among them. In the face of financial hardships aggravated by the pandemic, individualism was out, collaboration was in.

Tai Shani, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Lawrence Abu Hamdan become an artist collective and the next Turner Prize named only collectives.

Tai Shani, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Lawrence Abu Hamdan celebrate after being announced as the joint winners of Turner Prize 2019. Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Stuart Wilson/Getty Images for Turner Contemporary.

That same tipping-point year, 2019, was also the year that the collective WHW from Zagreb, Croatia, was nominated to head the Kunsthalle in Vienna, a prestigious contemporary art museum nestled in the resplendent Museum Quarter in the Austrian capital. It was the first appointment of its kind to such an established institution, and it seemed to cap off this new cultural wave. The three curators, Nataša Ilić, Ivet Ćurlin, and Sabina Sabolović, would share two salaries three ways; they would be reachable at one email address.

By 2021, the sentiment of collective action truly entering the mainstream was also hitting the art market canon as well, largely by way of collective buying attempts. ConstitutionDAO, a failed exercise by a crypto-powered “decentralized autonomous organization” to buy an original copy of the U.S. constitution from Sotheby’s, saw micro investors sweep into a blue-chip auction.

Crypto is now more associated now with cynicism than idealism—but you must recall that the crypto boom came in the wake of the Gamestop affair, with its rhetoric of taking on Wall Street for the small investor; ConstitutionDAO was all about returning the art market “to the people.”

Ruangrupa’s Documenta incorporated multiple crypto initiatives, including a scheme to use crypto to build an alternative economy from the Palestinian collective The Question of Funding. The vogue for artist collectives was not just old-fashioned anti-market purity, but arose from practical concerns with a pragmatic focus, proposing new, shared ways of surviving.

Museums Quarter is home to Kunsthalle Wien, directed WHW, one of the first collectives to take over an insitution

Museums Quarter is home to the Kunsthalle Vienna. (Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

Dreams of collectivity in the financialized and non-financialized zones of the art world have deep roots. They tend to surge forward in moments of widespread crisis, as they did post World War 2 and again in the throes of Occupy Wall Street, post 2008 meltdown. But they were usually outside the door of the art world center, banging to get in. What’s different about the most recent period is that it really felt as if this door had been opened.

The longer history of collectives and collective politics were at play here: WHW are named in reference to a Marxist idea of “what, how, and for whom,” while Ruangrupa brought forward their socialist-inflected lumbung concept. Both were founded one year apart, in 2000 and 1999, respectively. It took two decades and various kinds of social upheaval in the wider world, but the time for these ideas to take charge seemed at hand.

It was no longer about just exhibiting collectives like the Guerrilla Girls or Superflex (although, in keeping with the zeitgeist, data shows that the Guerrilla Girls were one of the most collected artists in this period, and Superflex one of the most-shown at biennials), but about integrating collective ways of work into the bureaucratic strata of institutions, changing how they functioned at the deepest structure.

Ruangrupa’s expansive vision, the discussion around the Turner Prize, and WHW’s appointment all signaled a deep desire to flatten hierarchies. How much could such top-down cultural institutions truly mirror this method?

Maybe they couldn’t. Maybe they never truly wanted to.

Collectives like DAOs tried to buy art.

Message on the landing page of the ConstitutionDAO during the sale.

Have We Passed Peak Collective?

There are signs that the moment, however profound it seems, has passed.

Last December, after four years, WHW was ousted from their job. The reasoning given was wooly at best—the collective called the motivations “unclear and unfair.” The Croatian collective re-applied, and were denied. Kunsthalle board member Boris Marte resigned in protest of the decision—but no matter: WHW will be gone from the Kunsthalle in June 2024.

Their program, which was focused on highlighting overlooked narratives in Eastern European, de-colonialist, and feminist themes, was generally well-received. There were no major controversies. If their attendance numbers were the issue, that would be unwarranted given that most of their time running the Kunsthalle was done under Covid-19 lockdowns (museum attendance has gone down at most museums, including ones like the Louvre).

What seems more likely is that the pushback against WHW, Ruangrupa, and the whole collectivity vibe can, at least in part, be read within a wider push against the “woke” politics that marked the mid-2010s, of which these appointments and shared prizes were very much a part. WHW too noted a “broader ideological consolidation” across European institutions, calling it an “uncreative response” to manifold crises.

What, How & for Whom/WHW, artistic directors Kunsthalle Wien (from left to right): Sabina Sabolović, Nataša Ilić and Ivet Ćurlin, photo: Katarina Šoškić

The ouster of WHW came only a three months after the close of Documenta 15, which bloomed from that “collective of collectives” into a bumper crop of more than 1,500 artists that confused many critics deeply attached to Western ideas of art. The bigger issue: Ruangrupa’s efforts to bring a new working model and new focus on non-Western contemporary art into Documenta was marred as the group tried, collectively, and failed, collectively, to face and mitigate accusations of antisemitism in their show.

In June, antisemitic caricatures were spotted in a work by the Indonesian art collective Taring Padi. While charges and counter-charges of discrimination and anti-semitism rage on, blame was put on the collective model itself for having created something so unwieldy that it let such problematic material slip through. (“This is exactly what happens when the authority over the form and content of the exhibition is subcontracted many levels away from the main curators to other groups and individuals in the name of collectivity and diversity,” wrote artist and critic Mohammad Salemy.)

Due to the decentralized curatorial approach and its sheer size (the curators admitted that the show became “too big” in my interview as the show closed), support teams, the art mediators, and tech teams were under exceptional pressure.

Collective responsibility means collective accountability, which is uncomfortable in the face of an acute crisis. Yet, either way, the media-fueled scandal of Documenta 15 will likely scare Documenta’s next finding committee off of choosing any risk-prone presentations. As collectivity backfires in the public view, individual art stars will once again prevail. It’s a fair bet that Documenta 16 will revert to a celebrity-curator head and that it will look more like a neatly curated museum show than the previous editions before it. If it sprawls, it will sprawl by giving a small number of artists a lot more room. I hope I am wrong.

Back to Flying Solo

The more social and process-based work of artist collectives may be written-off as too resource-intensive given the current battles in museums around rising costs. The irony here is that collective forms are often born from creative survival in times of economic pain and struggle, and could teach a lot about being inventive and building more sustainably.

But it may be then that the retreat from these collective experiments is more about values, retreating to tradition instead of embracing new ways of working. The new austerity and impending recession will likely mean a move back to the safe, based largely on what appeals to the most powerful funders. Documenta, Kunsthalle Vienna, and the Turner Prize have storied pasts to stack against these recent experiments, which could be, in retrospect, glitchy publicity blips on their chronology.

Art collective Ruangrupa standing together

The curators of Documenta 2022: Ruangrupa members Reza Afisina, Indra Ameng, Farid Rakun, Daniella Fitria Praptono, Iswanto Hartono, Ajeng Nurul Aini, Ade Darmawan, Julia Sarisetiati, Mirwan Andan. Photo: Gudskul / Jin Panji

Collectives showing up at the heart of the art world power structure as a “trend” always meant the risk of going out of fashion would be high. This is disconcerting, not least because collective production is not just about aesthetics, but it often is motivated by very real concerns around social justice, from individuals brought together over a joint social or political aim.

Felwine Sarr, co-author the French restitution report in 2019, said something in another context, which I think resonates here succinctly: When French president Macron “opened a door” with his publicity statements on the restitution of African art, Sarr warned “we have to put our foot in the door so that it cannot close again.” So it is with the recent advances in art with collective practice.

If it is back to star creative directors and single-name winners, and if there is little discussion about what just happened—and why it went away—what did it all mean, beyond momentary virtue signaling? Within a logic where progress can all too often be simply symbolic, individuals will have to fight harder to meaningfully entrench the valuable lessons brought forward by the collective initiatives of the recent past, and keep that door wedged open.

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Fifteen Years Ago, Keltie Ferris Was Peter Halley’s Student. The Artists, Now Friends, Sat Down to Talk Shop as They Debut New Work

Peter Halley and Keltie Ferris first met sometime in the mid-2000s, at the height of the abstract painting revival. Halley, a pioneering Neo-Conceptualist renowned for his disciplined grids, was head of painting and printmaking at the Yale School of Art; Ferris, a graduate student with a knack for wielding fluid materials like spray paint. Nevertheless, their work had a lot in common: a love of color, especially jangly fluorescents; an embrace of digital influences; and a desire to release painting from both its figurative and abstract forebears.

Through the course of the teaching relationship, each found a respect for the other’s practice, and the conversation has continued—even if the two artists don’t actually talk as much as they once did. To pit their paintings against each other today is like seeing estranged cousins reunite: time has changed them, but you can’t deny the shared DNA.

You’ll get to do the chance to do just that this week at Independent New York, where both artists are presenting new paintings—Ferris with his Los Angeles gallery, Morán Morán, and Halley with The Ranch, Max Levai’s new gallery located on Andy Warhol’s old farm in Montauk.    

Ahead of the fair, the two got together to catch up, with Midnight Publishing Group News in tow to record the results. What followed was a wide-ranging conversation about working methods, color “friendships,” and setting up problems just to fix them. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. The audio version of Halley and Ferris’s conversation will be published in this week’s edition of The Art Angle, Midnight Publishing Group News’s weekly podcast.

Keltie Ferris, <i>Ultra Blue You</i>, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

Keltie Ferris, Ultra Blue You (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

Keltie Ferris: Hi Peter.

Peter Halley: Hi Keltie. Good to talk to you, as always. Yesterday, I was trying to think back—even from the time when you were a grad student, I felt an affinity with your work because of your use of contemporary materials—spray paint, et cetera—as well as the digital-aged energy of your work.

KF: A sense of paintings looking forward. Of course, all paintings look backward, and they have to because they’re paintings, but I think a thing we have in common is that we’re trying to look forward in time to the future. We’re both somewhat future-obsessed. 

PH: Looking back at your work for the last 15 years, that’s obviously in the work. But were you like that way back when, as a very young artist?

KF: I don’t know if I was then, actually. In fact, I came into school with the problem of being art history-dependent. I always had an art history book open while working, really. Getting away from that was probably the influence of you and the school, learning to think more about the present tense and the idea that paintings have a life in the future—that you should address what you thought the medium was going to become or what you hoped it would become, as well as what it had been. That takes you into the realm of science fiction, because one doesn’t know what’s going to happen. It has to do with an interest in technology, too, which [is what] the sprayed mark represents for me.

PH: My paintings are not very athletic. I do these studies sitting at a table, and then they’re put together in a very mechanical way. That’s another thing that’s always struck me about your work: you have a really athletic relationship to your paintings and drawings.

KF: That is one way in which we were very different! [Laughs] In the early 2000s, I felt—whether this is true or not—that it was near impossible to make a gestural painting that didn’t feel extremely indebted to the 1950s and thus have an antiquated, patriarchal throwback feel in a really negative way. I was an athletic person and a person prone to the gesture; I was looking for ways to do that that didn’t feel outdated. That’s one reason I started looking toward the future. It was a lot of experimentation with mark-making and materials. The spray paint mark was the one I landed on that I really stuck with. I guess the gesture is not really your focus, to say the least. 

PH: Yeah, it’s a little bit contradictory, but I consider my paintings idealist insofar as I want their content to come solely out of my head, not from the hand or body. They are tactile, but there’s no personality in how they’re made. It’s philosophically important, I think.

Keltie Ferris, <i>Butterfly Paths</i>, (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

Keltie Ferris, Butterfly Paths (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

KF: I like how that enables you to jump mediums or forms—from wall-based work to painting to more sculptural pieces, even to architecture and to writing. It all seems to knit itself together. It spawns from the head of Zeus and thus can take forms in many kinds of materialities, which gives you a sense of freedom that I’m jealous of. That’s one thing I’ve been thinking about a lot, looking over your work—like your last show at Greene Naftali [“​​Heterotopia II” in 2019]. You’re embracing the whole space, manipulating it, and the painting is integral to that.

PH: And you did the same in your last show [“FEEEEELING” at Mitchell-Innes & Nash this year]. I’ve always been interested in site-specific paintings—altarpieces, paintings at the end of a church or in the chapels to the side. I think about how you walk through a three-dimensional space and encounter a two-dimensional image. Most of my installations are based on that, the idea of an image that you encounter in a specific spatial setting.

KF: It’s interesting because that kind of ties you back to the body, you know? Because the painting is an object in a space. But in that case, it’s maybe more about the viewer’s body rather than your body, which is kind of cool. It’s like you’re handing over the body to them. [Laughs]

PH: It’s contradictory to how I want to make the work and how I want it to feel. In my work, the measurements have to do with human scale, which I grew up with through Abstract Expressionism. I think that was the first real human-scaled painting.

KF: Have you never made a larger painting, something, say, mural-sized?

PH: I did once, a 40-foot-painting in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, but what I found is that the components all have to have a human dimension, like something you can fit between your hands. Actually, that work was eight paintings put together in a grid. I just couldn’t just do one big image like that.

Peter Halley, <i>Too Late</i> (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

Peter Halley, Too Late (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

Your work isn’t exactly gestural, but it is painterly. What other painters do you admire? I’ve been looking at Joan Mitchell lately and those paintings drive me crazy. They’re so tortured. 

KF: That’s so true. I think a lot about Joe Bradley, too. To me, he’s very indebted to Joan Mitchell, and no one ever talks about it. I was thinking about Joe Bradley and his robots in relation to your building paintings. Katharina Grosse—I’m intrigued by the scale and sense of diversity in her work. I feel like I’m always stuck at a certain scale.

The thing is, I think a lot about painters that are really different from me. I love Malcolm Morley, for example—his ability to paint whatever he wanted to paint and to move from subject to subject.

PH: When you mentioned Katharina Grosse, that made a lot of sense to me. The way I see it, gesture for you is lyrical; it’s rhythmic. Her work also has that kind of lyricism or harmony.

KF: What about you? What painters are you thinking about?

PH: I just got through reading Ninth Street Women and a book on Helen Frankenthaler. I’m sort of enmeshed in second-generation Abstract Expressionism right now. It’s really interesting to look at gestural paintings in the 1940s and ’50s. They really were committed to the idea that putting paint on the canvas with a brush was like a record of their existential state. It’s quite fascinating.

Keltie Ferris, <i>Golden Rod</i>, (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

Keltie Ferris, Golden Rod (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

KF: It’s interesting that you are in that time period. These classics, as much as you may want to get away from them, they never go away. At least that’s how I feel. Is that how you feel about it, or do you go back there as a kind of happy place? Do you think about making work in conversation with the current moment or what’s come before you?

PH: Starting around 1981, when I began to work with prisons and cells connected by conduits, I was convinced that that was a paradigmatic base of contemporary life. At the time I was thinking about cable TV and electric systems and so forth, but it pretty much ended up being a roadmap for digital connectivity. I was consciously trying to map the space that contemporary life was turning into. The ideas behind that have to do with physical isolation and a technological connectivity.

KF: And you did it! Talk about seeing the future. [Laughs]

PH: People gave me a hard time back then; they thought I was exaggerating. It turns out I underestimated it all. [Laughs]

I’m still living in that basic diagrammatic space. The work veers toward that or away from that in different ways, but that’s still the spatial world that I’m inhabiting. You can’t help but to describe the world that you’re coming into as a 30-year-old painter.

KF: Newness is definitely important to me. I think a lot about the timeless quality of painting. Both of us are interested in constructing paintings out of smaller bits or smaller marks. I’ve always been interested in Seurat and the Pointillists, how they built images out of dots. To me, that was an early scientific approach to painting that was a precursor to how we make images now.

Keltie Ferris, <i>Untitled</i>, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

Keltie Ferris, Untitled (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

PH: I want to talk about color a little bit. When I used to teach all these talented people at Yale, I came to the conclusion that about nine out of every 10 artists are black-and-white oriented—they see in terms of chiaroscuro, light and dark, modeling. It’s really the exception that somebody thinks in terms of hue primarily. I think you probably do. Color and hue seem like they’ve always been primary components of your work. Has that been the case for forever?

KF: Yeah. I think it is a forever thing for me. I try to make work occasionally that’s black and white and it’s hard for me. In some ways it’s also simpler, because you’re taking out a whole layer of thought process. But, for me, it’s hard to find the heart of things without color. I think of colors in terms of the stories they tell and their connections to my own past experiences. I have many threads of color that I’m working on. There are color relationships that I ruminate on for years, on and off. Do you do that? Are there relationships between colors that you examine over time?

PH: Definitely. I’m looking at one of the paintings that I’m showing at the Independent. It’s all secondary colors—orange, green, purple. The secondary colors are always much more central to me than the primaries.

KF: Purple and orange—that’s a team or a friendship that I’ve been interested in for a long time. I like the awkwardness of it. Those colors make this outcast combination, even though they’re beautiful in their opposition. I’m also interested in other color relationships for the opposite reason. I’ve done a lot of red-and-blue paintings because of the centrality of those colors in our culture, from sports teams to flags to Pepsi advertising. I enjoy taking that centrality on.

Peter Halley, <i>How it Ends</i> (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

Peter Halley, How it Ends (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

PH: I think the way a painter chooses color as being akin to the way a composer chooses to work in a certain key.

KF: Yeah, color provides a harmonic key; you can work inside and outside of the rules that it sets up. I like to find the chords and discords and walk in and out of that sense of congruency as I work.

You have a thing for yellow, don’t you?

PH: I like yellow. I like red. [Both laugh]

KF: But it’s more complicated than that!

PH: Not really. [Laughs]

KF: I was making a lot of yellow paintings, but then people started talking about how happy they were and that seemed way too simplistic to me. So I stopped; I backed away from yellow.

PH: I did something kind of naughty for the Independent. I’ve made a painting with six blocks—three primaries and three secondaries. And then in the other painting, I cheated. I put black around everything. [Laughs]

KF: Why do you think that’s cheating?

PH: It makes everything glow. It’s easy. 

KF: Yeah, black—when it’s used as a separator between colors—that’s cheating, in that every color is contained and separate. It minimizes the interactions; it minimizes a lot of the excitement and the discomfort people get from color, which I think often comes when two or more colors interact.

PH: Do you use black at all? 

KF: Barely. For my last show three years ago [“(F(U(T( )U)R)E),” at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in 2018], I worked by making drawings and then filling them in with color. That was my attempt to take on black. That was me experimenting with being a different kind of artist, actually. My work at Independent is all about color, though.

PH: It’s very symphonic. I don’t know if you thought this was insulting, but when I wrote to you recently I said your new paintings look sort of Wagnerian. [Laughs]

KF: No, no, I thought it was dead on, in a way. I’ve been thinking a lot about sound and waves lately, how waves can take different forms.

Keltie Ferris, <i>Glow Down</i>, 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

Keltie Ferris, Glow Down (2021). Courtesy of the artist and Morán Morán.

PH: I’ve never asked you how you make your paintings. I’ll start by talking about mine. Everything is a landscape space. There are these two icons—either a cell or a prison, and they’re connected in different ways. Unless the form is presented against the wall, it’s form-figure-ground or form with a clear background. I work out the drawing, then after that I start working with color. For each composition, I’ll often make five or six paintings with different color approaches.

I have no idea how you do it?

KF: I work in a variety of different ways, but I began most of the work that’s in Independent by blotting color on top of color, making these monoprints that I couldn’t control. There were these forms that began, just two colors interacting. Then I either kept doing that—like in the largest painting [Golden Rod], where there are many colors blotted on top of each other—or I would use that form as a ground to work with or against. In some, there are drawn elements that float over this ground and kind of ignore it or work with it to create something more cohesive.

PH: So you’re really using the materials almost in a spontaneous way to trigger your unconscious, and then you compose?

KF: Yeah. Lately, my work has all been about ceding my lack of control in the situation. This blotting mechanism of getting color down, it’s as anti-compositional as it gets, because I literally can’t see what I’m doing. And I’m often very frustrated by it. But I’ve been using that frustration and sense of powerlessness to generate the next steps. It’s something that I’ve always done—just put something down and create a problem to fix, then go forward from there. It doesn’t feel unconscious, I have to admit. It’s really slow, and I feel as though I’m making very conscious decisions. It’s just one step at a time, rather than thinking of it as a whole.

Independent runs September 10–12 (VIP preview September 9) at the Battery Maritime Building, 10 South Street, New York, New York.

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11 Events for Your Art Calendar This Week, From a Talk With Jordan Casteel to Rashid Johnson at Storm King

Each week, we search for the most exciting and thought-provoking shows, screenings, and events. In light of the global health crisis, we are currently highlighting events in person and digitally, as well as in-person exhibitions open in the New York area. See our picks from around the world below. (Times are all EST unless otherwise noted.)


Monday, April 5

IV Castellanos. Photo by Nina Isabelle.

IV Castellanos. Photo by Nina Isabelle.

1. “Sexual Justice Symposium” at the New School, New York

As part of its 2021 Gender Matters Symposium,  the New School’s Gender & Sexualities Studies Institute is staging a panel on sex, power, and justice with an emphasis on intersectional art and activism. Speakers include artist Christen Clifford, writer Masha Tupitsyn, and curator Jasmine Wahi of the Bronx Museum of Art and Project for Empty Space in Newark. Artists IV Castellanos and Ayana Evans will also perform.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 6 p.m.–8 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Monday, April 5–Saturday, April 10

2. “Meta vs. Crypto” 

In what seems like an inevitable development, this virtual event is pretty much an NFT art fair, with 30 galleries selling digital art—available for purchase in dollars and cryptocurrency—on the blockchain. Three separate virtual worlds have been built to present work by over 50 artists, with an opening party hosted by Bootsy Collins. Accompanying Clubhouse programming will include a Monday night talk with newly minted NFT legend Beeple, and a Tuesday conversation about crypto art history and the Rare Pepe NFT that made headlines at the first-ever major NFT auction back in 2018 with a then-record $39,000 sale. The event is also accompanied by an NFT debut on MakersPlace featuring street artists from the popular traveling exhibition “Beyond the Streets.”

Price: Free
Time: On view daily at all times

—Sarah Cascone


Tuesday, April 6

Jordan Casteel. Photo by David Schulze.

Jordan Casteel. Photo by David Schulze.

3. “Painting Portraits: A Conversation with Jordan Casteel” at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York

As part of the programming for “David Hockney: Drawing from Life” (through May 30), the Morgan presents a conversation about portraiture with Jordan Casteel—known for her stunning large-scale paintings of Black men and women, many of whom she encountered on the street—and Isabelle Dervaux, the museum’s curator of Modern and contemporary drawings.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 5 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Wednesday, April 7

The conversation is part of the Bass's "Curator Culture" series.

The conversation is part of the Bass’s “Curator Culture” series.

4. “Recovering Black History” at the Bass, Miami Beach, and the Studio Museum, Harlem

Performer and Hamilton alumnus Leslie Odom, Jr., musician and author Questlove, and author and editor Jessica Harris will gather together to discuss how their work champions, recontextualizes, and preserves Black narratives. The conversation, which will be held on the Bass Museum’s YouTube Channel, is presented by the Bass and the Studio Museum in Harlem and moderated by the Bass’s own Tom Healy.

Price: Free with RSVP
Time: 6 p.m.

—Julia Halperin


Wednesday, April 7–Monday, November 8

Rashid Johnson, <em>The Crisis</em> (2019) installation view at Storm King Art Center, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Stephanie Powell, courtesy of Storm King Art Center.

Rashid Johnson, The Crisis (2019) installation view at Storm King Art Center, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Stephanie Powell, courtesy of Storm King Art Center.

5. “Rashid Johnson: The Crisis” at Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York

Beloved outdoor sculpture park Storm King opens for the season with Rashid Johnson’s site-specific installation of a 16-foot-tall, yellow pyramidal steel structure titled The Crisis amid a field of native grasses. “When I was making this work in 2019, there was so much talk about a ‘crisis at the border’—but now, in 2021, there is even more at stake,” the artist said in a statement. “The world has endured a year of struggle defined by the global pandemic, compounded by ongoing social unrest. My presentation at Storm King prompts us to reflect on how we move through our own daily lives as the world around us continues in crisis.”

Location: Storm King, 1 Museum Road, New Windsor, New York
 Per vehicle admission, starting with $20 for one person
Time: Spring hours Wednesday–Monday, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Friday, April 9

Tracey Robertson Carter, co-chair of Artist In-Residence in Everglades (AIRIE). Photo courtesy of Art Funders Forum.

Tracey Robertson Carter, co-chair of Artist In-Residence in Everglades (AIRIE). Photo courtesy of Art Funders Forum.

6. “Art x Climate Change” at the Art Funders Forum

For the latest event in its “Remake the Model” virtual conversation series, the Art Funder Forum is partnering with EXPO Chicago to answer one of the most pressing questions facing the art world: “How can cultural philanthropy help solve climate change?” Tracey Robertson Carter, co-chair of Artist In-Residence in Everglades (AIRIE), and Sarah Sutton of the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative will speak with Art Funders Forum founders Sean McManus and Melissa Cowley Wolf about how artists are increasing awareness of climate change and helping inspire philanthropists to invest money into fighting it.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 12 p.m. CDT

—Sarah Cascone


Through Saturday, May 1

Jotham Malavé Maldonado,
El loco (Visiones del Cerro), 2019. Courtesy of REGULAR•NORMAL.

7. “The Privilege of Getting Together” at Anna Zorina, New York

Anna Zorina Gallery is hosting part 2 of Regular Normal’s January group show, “The Privilege of Getting Together.” Curator Danny Baez has organized an amazing line-up of 15 artists, including Danielle de Jesus, Estelle Maisonett, Jotham Malavé Maldonado, and Miguel Payano. Each artist addresses themes of community and relationships in the age of Covid.

Location: Anna Zorina Gallery, 532 W 24th St, New York
Time: Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Cristina Cruz


Through Sunday, April 25

Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack, Kings Blue (I’ll Be Seeing You), 2020. Courtesy of Alyssa Davis Gallery.

8. “Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack: Domesticity Forgotten: The Art of Assemblage ” at Alyssa Davis Gallery, New York

Alyssa Davis Gallery has extended Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack’s solo show, “Domesticity Forgotten: The Art of Assemblage,” through April 25. The show presents sculptural installations (which the artist calls “conceptual performance assemblages”) and photographs, some of the artist’s performances. You can see more of Gaitor-Lomack’s found-object sculptures at Lyles & King through May 2.

Location: Alyssa Davis Gallery, 2 Cornelia Street, New York
Time: By appointment

—Cristina Cruz


Saturday, May 8

Emily Marie Miller, Envy in the Wings (2021). Courtesy of Monya Rowe.

Emily Marie Miller, Envy in the Wings (2021). Courtesy of Monya Rowe.

9. “Emily Marie Miller: If I Cannot Bend the Gods Above, Then I Will Move the Infernal Regions” at Monya Rowe, New York

In new large-scale works, painter Emily Marie Miller depicts a fantastical, nighttime world filled only with women in theatrically staged scenarios engaging in various erotic entanglements. Partly inspired by Liz Greene’s 1996 book The Astrological Neptune and the Quest for Redemption, Miller reimagines the Neptunian archetype’s desire to return to a worldly paradise within these images of seeming abandon. The women that populate these scenes appear slightly blurred, as though hazily recalled in a dream, and it seems possible that just one protagonist appears multiplied again and again. Allusions to fairy tales and films reverberate—a reappearing pair of scarlet slippers bring to mind the 1948 technicolor film The Red Shoes, while the stage-like interior scenes call to mind choreographed ballets, particularly Giselle. Humming with dark blues and burning reds, the paintings are a kind of one-woman burlesque, performed primarily for oneself and to delightfully lurid effect. 

Location: Monya Rowe, 224 West 30th Street, #1005,  New York
Price: Free
Time: Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.– 6 p.m.

—Katie White


Through Sunday, May 16

Nicholas Galanin, <i>Never Forget</i>. North of the Palm Springs Visitors Center at Tramway Road. Courtesy Desert X.

Nicholas Galanin, Never Forget. North of the Palm Springs Visitors Center at Tramway Road. Courtesy Desert X.

10. “Desert X 2021” at various locations, Coachella Valley, California

The latest edition of this sprawling mega-show, which takes place in the great outdoors of the Coachella Valley in California, picks up where the latest editions left off. The show is organized by Desert X artistic director Neville Wakefield and co-curator César García-Alvarez and includes works by artists such as Nicholas Galanin, whose Hollywood-like sign reminds viewers about whose land it really is; Judy Chicago, whose fireworks offer a stunning and colorful display; and Alicja Kwade, whose powerful, sometimes difficult works combine industrial materials with biomorphic forms. Timed tickets can be reserved for those who are interested.

Location: Various locations, Coachella Valley, California
Price: Free
Time: Sunrise to sunset, Monday through Sunday

—Nan Stewert


Through Sunday, July 11

Lillian Bassman, A Report to Skeptics, Suzy Parker, April 1952, Harper’s Bazaar. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Eric and Lizzie Himmel, New York. © Estate of Lillian Bassman. Image via The Jewish Museum.

11. “Modern Look: Photography and the American Magazine” at the Jewish Museum, New  York

Dive into the world of the mid-century American magazine with the Jewish Museum’s latest show honoring the legacy of postwar avant-garde design. As artists and designers were forced out of Europe during the war, many of them landed in America, bringing with them an “unmistakable aesthetic” that marked the pages of magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. Featuring photographs, layouts, covers, and more from the archives of designers and photographers like Richard Avedon, Lillian Bassman, Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks, and Paul Rand, the show shapes up to be a print lover’s dream.

Location: The Jewish Museum, 1109 5th Ave, New York
Price: $18 for adults
Time: Monday 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m–8 p.m., Friday–Sunday 11 a.m.–4 p.m.

—Katie Rothstein

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11 Events for Your Art Calendar This Week, From a Talk About the Future of Museums to Three Shows at Bortolami

Each week, we search for the most exciting and thought-provoking shows, screenings, and events. In light of the global health crisis, we are currently highlighting events and digitally, as well as in-person exhibitions open in the New York area. See our picks from around the world below. (Times are all EST unless otherwise noted.)


Tuesday, January 12

Installation view of "Lin Tianmiao: Protruding Patterns" at Galerie Lelong, New York, in 2017. Image courtesy Galerie Lelong.

Installation view of “Lin Tianmiao: Protruding Patterns” at Galerie Lelong, New York, in 2017. Image courtesy Galerie Lelong.

1. “Meet the Artist: Lin Tianmiao on Public Art In China” at the China Institute, New York

This Zoom conversation between artist Lin Tianmiao and art writer Barbara Pollack is organized by the China Institute and shared by Galerie Lelong. The discussion will focus at Lin’s new post-feminist work and the rise of large-scale public art projects in China. The artist is known her embroidered objects that explore gender roles in modern-day society. New works also explore themes of time and loss.

Price: Free with registration
Time: 8 p.m.

—Eileen Kinsella


Wednesday, January 13

Danielle Scott. Photo courtesy of the Newark Museum.

Danielle Scott. Photo courtesy of the Newark Museum.

2. “Studio Snapshots: Danielle Scott” at the Newark Museum of Art

The Newark Museum has launched a video series spotlighting local artists and their work during the past year in lockdown. The second video, featuring Danielle Scott—a full-time art teacher making work inspired by the current state of affairs for Black men in the US—will be released this week on the museum’s Facebook page.

Price: Free
Time: 12 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Thursday, January 14

András Szántó, The Future of the Museum: 28 Dialogues. Photo courtesy of the author.

András Szántó, The Future of the Museum: 28 Dialogues. Photo courtesy of the author.

3. “Virtual Roundtable: The Future of the Museum” at the Brooklyn Museum 

On the occasion of the publication of museum strategist András Szántó’s new book, The Future of the Museum: 28 Dialogues, the author will speak with Sandra Jackson-Dumont, director of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, and Marie-Cécile Zinsou, president and founder of Benin’s Zinsou Foundation, about new models for what a museum can be. Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak will also speak with Victoria Noorthoorn, director of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Franklin Sirmans, director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, about how their institutions are adapting to the present moment. The back-to-back talks will stream on Facebook Live, or you can register for the program on Zoom.

Price: Pay what you wish
Time: 6 p.m.–7 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone


Thursday, January 14–Saturday, February 13

Polina Barskaya, Bovina Living Room with Cat, 2020 Courtesy of Monya Rowe Gallery

4. “Me, Myself and I: Polina Barskaya, Aubrey Levinthal, and Justin Liam O’Brien” at Monya Rowe Gallery

Monya Rowe Gallery presents a three-person exhibition of new works by artists Polina Barskaya, Aubrey Levinthal, and Justin Liam O’Brien. The show consists of figurative works that look inwards to create everyday narratives that are widely relatable. Themes of self-reflection and introspection are highlighted as “each artist harnesses their psychological experiences to engender their work and create a space for personal significance,” according to the gallery.

Location: Monya Rowe Gallery, 224 West 34th Street #1005, New York, NY 10001
Time: Tuesday–Saturday, 12 p.m.–6 p.m.

—Neha Jambhekar


Thursday, January 14–Tuesday, February 16

A painting by Aida Mahmudova. Courtesy of Sapar Contemporary.

A painting by Aida Mahmudova. Courtesy of Sapar Contemporary.

5. “Aida Mahmudova: PASTPRESENTFUTURE” at Sapar Contemporary, New York

The latest project from Sapar Contemporary’s Central Asian Incubator for women artists of Central Asia and the Caucuses features Azerbaijani painter Aida Mahmudova, who embeds materials including grass, dry plants, copper, and ceramics into her layered canvases depicting the landscapes of her homeland.

Location: Sapar Contemporary, 9 North Moore Street, New York
Time: Opening viewing January 14 and 15 for groups under eight, 5 p.m.–7 p.m.; Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone 


Thursday, January 14–May 1

Artwork by Hiba Schahbaz. Photo courtesy of Art Production Fund.

Artwork by Hiba Schahbaz. Photo courtesy of Art Production Fund.

6. “Hiba Schahbaz: In My Heart” at Rockefeller Center, New York

Hiba Schahbaz takes over unused ad spaces in the latest offering from Art Production Fund. The artist, known for her mythological self portraits, has created paper cut-outs featuring garden scenes and female figures amid the doldrums of winter in New York. The highlight will be a 125-foot-long site-specific mural at the concourse of 45 Rockefeller Plaza, while smaller lightbox displays are inspired by traditional Indo-Persian miniature paintings.

Location: Rockefeller Center, 10, 30, 45, and 50 Rockefeller Plaza, New York
Time: Open daily at all times

—Sarah Cascone


Friday, January 15–Saturday, March 20

David-Jeremiah, detail of <i>Hamborghini Rally: Soul Hunt City ('72 Dartón)</i> (2019). Courtesy of Gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick.

David-Jeremiah, detail of Hamborghini Rally: Soul Hunt City (’72 Dartón) (2019). Courtesy of Gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick.

7. “David-Jeremiah: Play” at Halsey McKay x Gallery Kendra Jayne Patrick, East Hampton

In this compact East Hampton solo exhibition, David-Jeremiah presents five paintings interpolating the disturbingly relevant legacy of Micah Xavier Johnson. In 2016, Johnson, a former US Army carpenter, fatally shot five Dallas police officers in an act of vigilante retribution for generations of violence carried out by law enforcement against Black Americans. He then became an even more surreal footnote in the nation’s macabre history of race relations when police leveraged a never-before-used weapona bomb-defusing robot equipped with a live explosiveto kill Johnson in his hideout. Jeremiah channels these events and their aftermath into a series of works inspired by simulated racing games. Called “Hamborghini Rally: Soul Hunt City,” the paintings communicate how bigotry creates a never-ending “us vs. them” contest in which each side’s grim score will only ever continue escalatinguntil, or unless, this country finally disconnects the white supremacist circuitry powering the whole enterprise from the start.

Location: Halsey McKay, 79 Newtown Lane, East Hampton
Price: Free
Time: Friday–Monday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. (and by appointment)

—Tim Schneider


Friday, January 15–Saturday, February 27

Patrick Angus, <em>Hanky Panky</em> (1990). Photo courtesy of Bortolami.

Patrick Angus, Hanky Panky (1990). Photo courtesy of Bortolami.

8. Three shows at Bortolami

There’s one hell of a tripleheader opening at Bortolami this Friday. In the main exhibition space is what is sure to be a stunning exhibition of work by the late Patrick Angus, who died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 38. The show spans decades of his practice and features a number of works from the last decade of his life, spent in New York, capturing the explosion of culture at the city’s innumerable gay bars, bathhouses, and sex clubs with lush, gloriously rendered paintings and works in paper, many made from life. As if you needed more, in an anteroom there’s a show by the indefatigable Tom Burr that is sure to be a delight. And upstairs in the gallery’s second floor viewing room is a group show put together by the fearless critic David Rimanelli featuring three of the most exciting artists around: Kayode Ojo, Borna Sammak, and Chivas Clem.

Location: Bortolami, 39 Walker Street, New York
Price: Free
Time: 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

—Nate Freeman


Saturday, January 16–Sunday, February 21

Xiao Wang, Slumber (After Goya) – Dusk, 2020 Courtesy of Deanna Evans Projects

9. “A Collective Escape” at Deanna Evans Projects, Brooklyn

Deanna Evans Projects’ inaugural exhibition in its new Brooklyn space featuring works by eight emerging artists and was organized through a blind open call juried by Elizabeth Buhe, Alejandra Jassan, and Nickola Pottinger. The result is a collection of eight beautiful works that depict the possibilities of escapism—a much explored topic during the harrowing year of 2020.

Location: Deanna Evans Projects, 1329 Willoughby Avenue, #171 E, Brooklyn
Time: January 16 and 17, 12 p.m.–8 p.m.; and by appointment

—Neha Jambhekar


Saturday, January 16

Concept art for Derek McPhatter Afro-futurist and Afro-surreal dreamscapes. Designed by Daria Borovkova. Photo courtesy of MCA Chicago.

Concept art for Derek McPhatter Afro-futurist and Afro-surreal dreamscapes. Designed by Daria Borovkova. Photo courtesy of MCA Chicago.

10. “The Dreamscape” at MCA Chicago

As part of “The Long Dream,” an exhibition of more than 70 local Chicago artists on view through May 2, the MCA Chicago is hosting virtual events showcasing time-based and live performances, with a wide offering of livestreamed music, conversations, and video art. Audiences can tune in to the programming of their choosing throughout the day, such as a DJ set with Sadie Woods or the premiere of new works by Eduardo F. Rosario, Selina Trepp, and others.

Price: Pay what you wish
Time: 2 p.m.–6 p.m. CT

—Sarah Cascone


Through Sunday, January 24

Installation view of "Kambui Olujimi WALK WITH ME." Photo courtesy of Project for Empty Space.

Installation view of “Kambui Olujimi WALK WITH ME.” Photo courtesy of Project for Empty Space.

11. “Kambui Olujimi WALK WITH ME” at Project for Empty Space, Newark

For this first show in the gallery’s new home, Newark’s Project for Empty Space presents a selection of 177 ink-wash works on paper by Kambui Olujimi, each a portrait of his mentor, Catherine Arline, who died in 2014. Based on a single photograph of the subject from the 1950s, when she was just 18, the artworks memorialize Arline and her larger-than-life role in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community where the artist grew up.

Location: Project for Empty Space, 800 Broad Street, Newark
Time: By appointment, Thursday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

—Sarah Cascone

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