In the 20th century, New York established itself as the cradle of abstract expressionism and subversive pop art. Today, the city is a canvas for a new school of artists pushing the boundaries of media and holding social justice as their main message.
World-renowned institutions such as MoMA, The Metropolitan Museum Of Art and The Guggenheim continue to attract tourists and art lovers in equal measure, and major commercial galleries such as Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Pace, Perrotin and David Zwirner all occupy a large image space, some with multiple locations.
Manhattan art fairs, including The Armory Show, Frieze and Independent, have become highly anticipated annual fixtures on the art calendar. After a hiatus from in-person artistic experiences, New York City is back and proving it’s still a powerhouse of creativity, originality, commerce, and connection.
Best Art Exhibitions in New York: A Guide
Exhibition: ‘Gillian Wearing: Wearing Masks’
Dates: until June 13, 2022
Installation view, ‘Gillian Wearing: Wearing Masks’, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, through June 13, 2022. Photography: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2021
Masks and role-playing are recurring devices in British artist Gillian Wearing’s portrayal, for which she transformed into Meret Oppenheim, Eva Hesse and Andy Warhol in drag. She’s digitally aged, “carried” her 17-year-old self, and seen actors “carry” her using face-swap AI. ‘Gillian Wearing: Wearing Masks’ (through June 13, 2022) marks the first retrospective of Wearing’s work in North America. Featuring over 100 pieces, the exhibition traces the artist’s evolution from early Polaroids to his latest self-portraits, all of which explore identity as performance, with cast masks both as props and metaphors.
Exhibition: Looking Back / The 12th White Columns Annual – Selected by Mary Manning
Location: White Columns
Dates: January 22 – March 5, 2022
Courtesy of Mary Manning
New York’s oldest nonprofit alternative art space has invited photographer Mary Manning to select works for its 12th annual White Columns — the first iteration of the serial group show to run since the start of the pandemic. Previous selectors — tasked with curating an exhibition based on works or artists they’ve met in New York over the past year — have included artists, curators, writers, collectives. Brooklyn-based Manning was selected in part because of his prolific mileage covered and his support of emerging New York artists (they often post highlights on their personal Instagram @maryymanningg). Titled “Looking Back”, featured artists include Nicole Eisenman, Nan Goldin, Gordon Parks, Arthur Simms, Diamond Stingily, Sophie Stones and many more.
Exhibition: ‘Toni Morrison’s Black Book’, organized by Hilton Als
Location: David Zwirner, 525 West 19th Street
Dates: until February 26
Installation view, ‘Toni Morrison’s Black Book’, David Zwirner, New York, through February 26, 2022. Courtesy of David Zwirner
A group exhibition examines the prolific output and cultural significance of Toni Morrison, in particular the late novelist The black book (1974), which the show’s curator, Hilton Als, describes as “a seminal historical document that changed the way black American history is taught”. The show, as Als notes, “will add visual elements that italicize the beauty and boldness of his work.” In Chelsea, a selection of archival documents and works by contemporary artists, including Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Kerry James Marshall, Julie Mehretu, Irving Penn, among others, some of whom were commissioned for the exhibition in response to Morrison’s writings.
Exhibition: Bruce Nauman: ‘His Mark’
Location: Sperone Westwater
Dates: until March 12, 2022
Installation view of Bruce Nauman: ‘His Mark’. Credit: Sperone Westwater, New York
In Bruce Nauman’s new show ‘His Mark’, six large video projections are set up over three floors from downtown Bowery to Sperone Westwater. The artist features close-ups of his hands – a long-standing element in Nauman’s work – repeatedly marking an “X”, echoing the theme of a storybook Nauman received from his little one. -son Milo: When asked to sign his name on a treaty with the Canadian government, the Native American Chief of the Blackfoot Band signed an “X”. This led the artist to reflect on the link between marking and representation. In places, the film is manipulated or duplicated, the repetition becoming piercing, taking the viewer from a state of reality to ambiguity, even to abstraction. This is Nauman’s fourteenth exhibition with the gallery since 1976.
Exhibition: ‘Late Night Enterprise’
Dates: until February 19, 2022
Kayoda Ojo, Death Star, 2022 and Richard Kennedy, The War of the Rose?, 2021. Photographer: Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of the artists and Perrotin
After-dark activities are the focus of a new group exhibition at Perrotin’s New York outpost. A domineering heel emerges with a parting in a wryly titled work by the late Breyer P-Orridge shoe horn. Elsewhere is the black and white of Sophie Calle Sleepers photographic sequence, Richard Kennedy’s 15-foot-tall acrylic painted netting “blankets” and Charlie Le Mindu’s hair sculpture. The suspended disco ball and discarded clothes of Kayode Ojo evoke pleasure, ecstasy, fetishism, thrilling nightlife, underground clubs and associated economies, unlike our relatively pedestrian everyday life.
Exhibition: Elliott Puckette
Venue: Kasmin Gallery
Dates: until February 26, 2022
At Kasmin Gallery’s 509 West 27th Street, Elliott Puckette takes his decades-long obsession with line to a whole new level. Puckette is best known for her abstract paintings featuring swirling arcs and winding squiggles. Crossing the line of sculpture, the artist has created two new works in bronze that stand alongside painstakingly created paintings and works on paper at different scales. As the artist told us recently “I wanted to see if the ephemeral nature would still hold in the sculptures, in something as substantial as bronze. It is a contradiction that interests me.
Exhibition: Takesada Matsutani: ‘Combining’
Location: Hauser & Wirth 22nd Street
Dates: February 3 – April 2, 2022
Takesada Matsutani’s globular compositions come from an unlikely source: blood, which he observed under a microscope in the 1960s with a friend from medical school. The Osaka-born, Paris-based artist sought to recreate what he saw, armed with industrial polyvinyl acetate and a heady dose of imagination. At Hauser & Wirth 22nd Street, ‘Combine’ fuses this method with elements found in other bodies of Matsutani’s work – graphite, acrylic paint and found objects. It incorporates bright color planes, as in Touchpoint-2021.8 (2021), and shaped canvases, as in the circular Germination (2021) creating bulbous, surreal and sensual forms. The exhibition demonstrates the artist’s talent for marrying simplicity, pure gesture and raw material.
Exhibition: max bill & georges vantongerloo ‘crossover’
Location: Hauser & Wirth 69th Street
Dates: January 27 – March 26, 2022
At Hauser & Wirth’s 69th Street, ‘crossover’ explores the lifelong friendship, creative affinity and written correspondence between artists Max Bill and Georges Vantongerloo. Along with Piet Mondrian, Vantongerloo was a key member of the Dutch de Stijl art movement. Bill, a Bauhaus student, was deeply involved in the Paris-based abstraction-creation artists’ collective from 1933, a group of which Vantongerloo had also been a member since 1931. ‘crossover’ highlights the enduring achievements of Bill and Vantongerloo through paintings and sculptures, and also coincides with Hauser & Wirth Publishers’ release of A Subversive Glimmer: Max Bill and His Times. 1908–1939.
Editing: Rashid Johnson, The chorus
Venue: Metropolitan Opera
Dates: until June 2022
The Broken Nine, by Rashid Johnson, 2020, ceramic tiles, mirror tiles, oyster shells, spray glaze, bronze, oil stick, marked red oak, black soap, wax. Photography: Martin Parsekyan
As New York art exhibits go on, they don’t get much more theatrical than Rashid Johnson’s later works. A two-part installation takes place not in a conventional gallery, but in the Grand Tier and Dress Circle of the Metropolitan Opera. As the Lincoln Center stage features seat-ranking stars such as Puccini’s Bohemian, upstairs, the two large-scale multimedia mosaics will enjoy an audience during intermission. Typical of Johnson’s work, which often incorporates found materials from everyday life, the two works – The Broken Nine 2020 and 2021, collectively titled The chorus – represent nine figures in ceramic tiles, mirror, spray enamel, soap and wax. Continuing in the line of important artists who have worked with the Metropolitan Opera – including Marc Chagall and David Hockney, and more recently Cecily Brown and George Condo – Johnson brings his contemporary perspective to this legendary institution.