Newspaper article International New York Times

Art: Gains and Pains, Moves and Momentum

Newspaper article International New York Times

Art: Gains and Pains, Moves and Momentum

Article excerpt

The years fly by. As the art world grows larger, art can look smaller. But a few impressions from the past season remain strong.

The years fly. As the art world grows larger, art can look smaller. But a few impressions from the past season remain strong.

This show coincided with prospects of a rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, and mixed-signals politics played a role in the event itself. When it opened in June, the Cuban-born artist Tania Bruguera was under the equivalent of house arrest in Havana for trying to do a performance piece that invited people to speak freely at an open microphone in Revolution Square. During the Biennial itself, another Cuban-born artist, Maria Magdalena Campos- Pons, working with a group of her American students, quietly presented Cubans with a similar opportunity to express themselves by writing in notebooks on questions about current events, including whether art could contribute to cross-cultural conversations. The focused and passionate responses of the writers said yes. There was no government interference.

The opening of the Whitney Museum of American Art's new plant in the meatpacking district was the local museum event of the year. Everyone cheered the Renzo Piano building; many had praise for the permanent-collection show, "America Is Hard to See." But with the confetti cleared, it's apparent that the Whitney is still pretty much what it has always been, apart from a few years in the 1980s and 1990s: an institution often flat-footed in its programming and compromised by its narrow definition of "American." It needs new thinking to match its new home.

Though it still harps on its own peculiar version of Modernism, one that we know all too well, the Museum of Modern Art gave signs of expanding its scope. The exhibition "Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America 1960-1980" (through Jan. 3) brought little-seen work out of deep storage, examined it, and added to it. Much of the salvage operation was by in-house curators. In the fall, MoMA's International Curatorial Institute, joined by the Center for Curatorial Leadership, hosted a conference of curators from museums in China, Greece, Nigeria, Palestine, Poland, Russia and Senegal. The visitors were in town to learn from New York, but New York has everything to learn from them.

The city's art scene continues to build, the promotional heat intensifying. The opening of the Broad in September was major West Coast news, though much of the collection is market boilerplate and East Coast-centric. More interesting was the city's continuing attention to its own neglected history in "Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (through Jan. 18), a retrospective of an African-American artist who was a founder of the Watts Tower Art Center and established an outdoor museum in the Mojave Desert. …

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