Art in times of crisis

The online exhibit How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This? raises the very same question many of us, museum and gallery professionals, have been asking ourselves since our daily routines were disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak. As the pandemic sweeps so many lives – including those of our colleagues, co-workers and people we admire in the art world and beyond – who cares about art anyway?

In uncertain times, art provides material with which to think and to reimagine the world. Here's Rpsana Paulino's "A Geometria à Brasileira Chega ao Paraíso Tropical (The Brazilian Geometries arrives at the Tropical Paradise)", 2018. Digital printing, collage and monotype on paper, 48 × 33 cm. Photo: Isabella Matheus. Courtesy of the artist and Mendes Wood (Sao Paulo/New York)
Image: A Geometria à Brasileira Chega ao Paraíso Tropical (The Brazilian Geometries arrives at the Tropical Paradise), 2018. Digital printing, collage and monotype on paper, 48 × 33 cm. Photo: Isabella Matheus. Courtesy of the artist and Mendes Wood (Sao Paulo/New York)

Two months in quarantine and I’m still adjusting. I’ve been barely looking at art – not even the few pieces I have at home. These days, I’ve been mostly looking inside of me. I’ve been massively ignoring the overwhelming online offers, although sometimes I suffer from that contemporary malaise, “fear of missing out”. I’ve been drawn to art as usual, but in different and somewhat unexpected ways. I’ve been drawing and making watercolors (for the time being a bunch of flowers that keep reminding me that somehow spring thrives out there).

Still, How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This? powerfully resonated with me. With new daily entries, and no exact date to end – just like this “new normal”, the exhibit serves as public forum, an interesting platform for exchange and dialogue. Here’s art at its best, showing us that, pretty much like in science, there aren’t easy and instant truths but rather an ongoing approximation to new concepts and registers, and a great deal of experimentation.

Rosana Paulino’s works spoke volumes to me. Addressing the Brazilian reality, she got to the core of the structural inequalities governing the world. With her gorgeous visual language, she seems to ask the questions we’ve been all thinking about: who is dying? Who is dying first? At the beginning of the current crisis, there was a sense that “we are all in this together”, that everybody was experiencing similar levels of anxiety due to the outbreak. As reality is sinking in differently for people, it has become clear that this is not really accurate. We are not in this together, or rather we are together, but somehow alone. In fact, many are being abandoned to their own fate.

As Rosana Paulino’s works show, the truth is that the current crisis mirrors everything that was right and wrong in our microcosmos and in the world at large. Life as we knew it has come to a halt. But how our future will look like? We don’t know yet. Amid so much uncertainty, what art does is to provide material with which to think and reimagine the world.

Hands-on art making activity

Vassily Kandinsky’s Lion Hunt is one of the works included in our much-loved “Animals” tour at the Guggenheim, but it can be explored by itself at home. While our museum experiences around New York City are postponed until further notice, we’d like to share with you today a step-by-step of a hands-on art-making activity based on this workHave fun and share your feedback and creations on social media or Sign up for more updates like this.

EM PORTUGUˆES: Caça ao Leão, de Kandinsky é uma das obras da nossa visita guiada “Animais”, no Guggenheim, que faz o maior sucesso entre crianças e adultos. Enquanto os museus da cidade estão fechados, gostaríamos de compartilhar com você hoje o passo a passo de uma atividade prática de criação de arte com base neste trabalho. Divirta-se e compartilhe seus comentários e criações nas mídias sociais ou Também assine nossa newsletter para sempre ficar sabendo de atualizações como essa.

Dispatch from a sheltered-in-place New York

This enterprise started out of a wish to have shared experiences around art, but the truth is, I have barely looked at art over the last month. In normal circumstances, I’m typically in contact with artworks and artists on a daily basis, in both a professional and a personal capacity. But, since mid-March, when the art world in New York City went online, I have yet to explore the overwhelming online offerings from museums and galleries now pilling up on my inbox and social media.

Life as we knew it has come to a halt. We are navigating an uncharted territory, and many of us feel fear, stress and anxiety. My last post, about a selection of exhibits I was looking forward to, now seems way out of touch, almost offensive. Who cares about this sort of thing when the nearby field hospital keeps reminding you that life is a blow? The introvert in me, normally comfortable working remotely and pretty good at self-isolating from others, now craves connection. I worry about my loved ones, my work colleagues, the city, the future. The year planning — once manageable and comfortably predictable — has become sparse and tentative. The city “that never sleeps” now feels noticeable tired, recluse. Where has all that bustling creative energy gone? For the time being, it’s been concentrating on a daily city-wide round of applauses for essential workers at 7 pm.

Between working, trying to score an Instacart delivery slot, and adjusting to this new normal, there hasn’t been much time left to brave the ubiquitous “instagram lives” and the glossy and brand new online viewing rooms, let alone to gaze artworks in a sustained mode. I saw only one thoroughly: Betty Parsons, at Alexander Gray. The storied art-dealer who showed the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhart, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg and others, was a talented painter on her own right, infusing highly saturated color and rhythmic brushstrokes in her works. No wonder it was almost soothing going from piece to piece, and feel transported to some another “era”, where one can wander around works of art and feel uplifted.

During my leisure time, I’m enjoying the free live drawing classes from The Princeton University Art Museum, the ballet classes by New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck (her profile on Instagram, where the classes take place, is @tilerpeck) as well some of the long reads from A.I.R. Gallery and David Zwirner. I just finished “Letters to a Young Painter”, from the latter. It’s a small volume that contains the delightful letters Rainer Maria Rilke wrote to Balthus, the artist, then a teenager boy. There I found a timely advise from Rilke to the young artist, one that reminded me of how art doesn’t obey the confines of any time and space: “Be strong, have courage, my dear, and be in good health, that’s all one can hope for when one is waiting”.

Art shows we’re looking forward to in 2020

From New York City to Marrakesh and Sao Paulo, here’s our guide to the must-see exhibitions that are worth planning a trip around this year. Get in touch now to book an art tour in NYC and beyond!

Gerhard Richter at the Met Breuer (New York)
March 4 through July 5, 2020
Before vacating its contemporary art branch, Marcel Breuer’s building on Madison Avenue, the Metropolitan Museum will present a major exhibition by the German painter Gerhard Richter. The show encompasses an over six-decade career, bringing together more than 100 works of art, including paintings, glass sculptures, prints and photographs. Early works will be in dialogue with more recent ones, like “Birkenau” (2014) and “Cage” (2006), which are making their US debut.

Niki de Saint Phalle at MoMA PS1 (New York)
April 5–September 7, 2020
Niki de Saint Phalle’s exhibition at MoMA PS1 will feature over 100 works, including her colorful, large-scale sculptures and socially engaged activist projects focused on women’s rights, climate change, and HIV/AIDS. The show, the late artist’s first New York museum survey, will also examine her landmark project Tarot Garden (1998), a sprawling 14-acre sculpture park in Tuscany, through photographs, drawings, and models.

Kusama with Pumpkin, 2010 © YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore / Shanghai; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York

Yayoi Kusama at the Botanical Garden (New York)
May 9 through Nov. 1st, 2020
Following a much praised exhibit on the work of Brazilian landscape designer Brule Marx, the New York Botanical Garden will present Kusama: Cosmic Nature. The garden-wide exhibit will include the artist’s signature mirrored environments, paintings, giant polka-dotted sculptures flowers and pumpkins and site-specific sculpture. The greenhouse installation will change over time and offer visitors a chance to participate in Kusama’s creative process.

Gego with her hanging sculptures. Photo: Fundación Gego Archive

Gego at the Guggenheim Museum (New York)
October 9, 2020–March 21, 2021
Gertrud Goldschmidt, or Gego, moved from Stuttgart to Caracas at the beginning of World War II and established herself as a leading figure of Venezuelan abstraction. Her approach combines a variety of media and draws inspiration from the Bauhaus, as well as her training in architecture and engineering. The iteration at the Guggenheim will be the first major New York museum retrospective dedicated to the Latin American artist. Before traveling to New York, the show is displayed at the Museo Jumex, in Mexico City, from April 30 through August 30.

Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution at the MSK (Ghent)
February 1st through April 30, 2020
The city of Ghent has declared 2020 the year of the 15th-century Flemish master Jan van Eyck, father of the Northern Renaissance and pioneer of a hyper-realistic style of oil painting that greatly shaped the trajectory of Western art. At the heart of the celebrations is Van Eyck: An Optical Illusion, the biggest Van Eyck exhibition ever staged. It will feature at least half of the surviving works by the painter — including the eight recently restored exterior panels of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, Van Eyck’s magnificent altarpiece created for St Bavo’s Cathedral. 

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at Tate Britain (London)
May 20 through August 31st, 2020
One of the leading artists of her generation, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, will have a full retrospective at Tate Britain of more than 80 paintings and works on paper dating from 2003, the year she graduated from the Royal Academy Schools, up to the present day. Her paintings are a delight to see: utterly contemporary, but also steeped in art history — often echoing the grand portraits, dark palettes and poses of Goya, Degas, Manet and Singer-Sargent. It promises to be quite an experience. 

Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith beheading Holofernes, about 1612-13

Artemisia Gentileschi at the National Gallery (London)
April 6 through July 26, 2020
A long-overdue recognition, this show pays tribute to Artemisia Gentileschi, the world’s best known female Renaissance painter. She was the first woman accepted into the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence and defied prejudice to forge a successful career. Forgotten for generations, her work was rediscovered thanks to scholarship in the 1970s and ’80s, achieving new resonance due to the reassessment of female artists’ roles in art history. The survey brings together around 35 works, including best-known paintings such as Judith beheading Holofernes, and more recently discovered masterpieces, like the Self-Portrait as Catherine of Alexandria, painted in around 1615-17, which alludes to Artemisia’s trial following her rape at the age of 17 by her painting teacher, Agostino Tassi.

Fantastic Women – Surreal Worlds From Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Copenhagen)
June 18 through September 27, 2020
The female pioneers of Surrealism made a marked impact on their movement, but, as is so often the case in art history, their achievements have been overshadowed by those of their male contemporaries. Next summer, however, an exhibition at Louisiana Museum looks to redress the balance. The survey will include around 250 works of painting, sculpture, drawing, photography and film by 30 women artists from the US, Mexico and Europe. Big names like Meret Oppenheim will be displayed alongside lesser-known artists including Leonor Fini. 

Christo’s project of The Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped. Photo: André Grossmann

Christo and Jeanne-Claude at the Arc de Triomphe (Paris)
September 19 through October 4, 2020
This year, the Arc de Triomphe will be wrapped by Christo. The Bulgarian-born artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude came up with the idea in 1962, but it is only now — nearly 60 years later — being realized in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou.  For just two weeks, the monument on the Champs-Élysées will be enveloped in 25,000 square metres of silvery blue fabric made from recyclable polypropylene and 7,000 metres of red rope. L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped  forms part of a major exhibition at the Pompidou, from March 18 through June 15, focusing on the couple’s work from the time they spent in Paris (1958-1964). Some unseen works like Cratères (1959-61), as well as a series influenced by Jean Dubuffet will be on display as well as preparatory studies for their Pont Neuf project, which along with the Reichstag in Berlin, is one of their most iconic works covered in fabric.

Though It’s Dark, Still I Sing: 34th Bienal de São Paulo (São Paulo)
September 5 through December 6, 2020 (expanded programming from February)
This year, the second-oldest biennial in the world will have a different format, with related solo shows opening as part of the exhibition months before the main part launches. The show’s title “Faz escuro mas eu canto” (Though it’s dark, still I sing), is a nod to the ways in which art can inspire hope and resilience during  times of upheaval. The Brazilian biennial will also shed light on contemporary indigenous art, from Brazil and other parts of the world, and stage an ever-before-realized Hélio Oiticica performance. While in the city, don’t miss Oiticica’s Dance in My Experience survey at the Museum of art of Sao Paulo (MASP). The show will present a wide selection of the Parangolés, including exhibition copies that can be worn by the public, with a focus on those with stronger connections to dance, music and popular culture. 

Have You Seen A Horizon Lately? at the MACAAL (Marrakesh)
February 25 through July 19
Taking its title from a song by Yoko Ono, the exhibition at the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden features work from a selection of emerging and established international artists including Ono herself (USA), Kapwani Kiwanga (Canada-France), Rahima Gambo (Nigeria), Amina Benbouchta (Morocco) and Alexandre Maxwell (Brazil). Throughout July, venues around the city will host a variety of exhibitions and events, like the 1-54 Contemporary African Art.

Kicking off a year of art adventures

Hey there, 
welcome to Art Explorer, a bespoke art firm that works in the intersection of art, education and enterprise. We craft and guide offbeat art experiences in New York City and beyond, collaborate on art projects and share information about exhibitions. Art Explorer is fun and welcoming, but not easily defined; nonchalant about hierarchies and committed to art for its own sake. 

It all started out of passion. Museums have always been the places I go to when I need to wind-up, have a good time, or feel uplifted. But racing around in a scavenger hunt, aiming to glimpse works of art other people have designated as masterpieces, is not my idea of fun. So I came up with the sort of gallery visit I would like to join: in-depth, specialized, and immersive, tailored for curious travelers and lifelong learners – not a “highlights tour”. After all, art speaks for itself.

Expect to see here art reviews, interviews, stories about the art scene in New York city and beyond and updates about our programming. For updates, sign up for our newsletter or keep an eye on Art Explorer’s instagram and Facebook pages. Looking forward to seeing you in 2020!