There has been a lot of excitement around the opening of the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. The Museum has been teeming with energetic visitors who see it and walk away feeling buoyed and inspired. We anticipated that this would be a common response to the exhibition, so over the past few months, in dialogue with the exhibition curators—Karl Buchberg, Jodi Hauptman, and Samantha Friedman—we have been designing educational programming that can complement a visitor’s experience in the galleries and provide an outlet for the creative energy that Matisse’s cut-outs generate. Read more
My favorite part of Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris is the moment when actress Marion Cotillard reveals her preferred moment from Paris’s illustrious past. Instead of being magically transported to the roaring 1920s of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Pablo Picasso, and Gertrude Stein, she prefers the glamour of the Belle Époque—the riotous 1890s when the City of Lights basked in all its outrageous fin-de-siècle glory. A new sensibility called L’Art Nouveau was winding its organic tentacles around the built environment, infusing it with the sensuous forms and generative force of nature. The accompanying move toward abstraction was opening up new possibilities for artistic expression in painting and sculpture. Japonisme was all the rage, and its elegant asymmetries, colorful patterns, flattening of space, heavily outlined forms, and radically cropped images had taken Paris by storm. A renaissance of printmaking breathed new life into traditional approaches to artistic production, and the graphic potential of the poster reached its apotheosis. And what would that moment have been without the towering genius (if diminutive in physical stature) and force-of-nature personality of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec?
What has always fascinated me most about this artist was his chameleon-like ability to construct his identity(s), actively living every moment of his brief and physically disabled but spectacular life in a blaze of artistic glory. An aristocrat, born with a silver spoon in his mouth (not an absinthe spoon, that would come later), Toulouse-Lautrec lived with one foot in the rarified world of great privilege, in the palaces, salons, and soirées made accessible by his privileged birthright, yet with the other firmly planted in the rowdy world of the Parisian demimonde, surrounding himself with other gifted outsiders of the artistic and entertainment worlds. Adroitly bridging “high” and “low,” Toulouse-Lautrec embraced a culture of excess that almost single-handedly defined the idea of a bohemian lifestyle.
In the brothels and cabarets, at the wildest parties imaginable, clad in exotic costumes and mixing up the deadliest concoctions of cocktails (American style) that he served at infamous soirées with hundreds of guests, Toulouse-Lautrec creative flame burned brightly as he walked (albeit with some difficulty) on the wild side. At one of the more spectacular of these parties, the 1895 housewarming fête for Alexandre (Thadee) Natanson, editor of La Revue Blance, and his wife Misia, the artist outdid himself serving 300 guests 2,000 cocktails (or so he proudly claimed) mixed in lurid hues of red, pink, yellow, and green, and apparently creating the desired effect, as several guests (including the artists Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard) left the party horizontally, as they had to be carried off to an impromptu “triage unit” for the hopelessly inebriated. Clad in a waistcoat made from an American flag and a shaved head, Toulouse-Lautrec staged the event, designed the invitations, and entertained guests including Alfred Jarry, Andre Gidé, Mallarmé, and Félix Fénéon. Now THAT’S a party!
Some of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most engaging work depicts his close female friends and muses, included the celebrated performers Jane Avril [also known as “La Melinite”—“the bomb,” Yvette Guilbert, and La Gouloue (“the glutton”)], immortalized in a series of prints and posters currently on view in the exhibition The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters from The Museum of Modern Art.
Come join me and other fans of 1890s Paris on October 16 or 22 for MoMA After Hours: Toulouse-Lautrec’s Nightlife, an evening of drinks, divas, and delightful conversation as we channel Toulouse-Lautrec’s demimonde while enjoying an after-hours visit to the exhibition and hands-on drawing project inspired by the artist’s constant doodling. Sample savory hors-d’oeuvres and raise of glass to “the green fairy” (absinthe) and to the incomparable joie de vivre of Toulouse-Lautrec and his divas. Who knows, you may even be inspired to dance the can-can.
This past May and June, MoMA’s Education and Research Building mezzanine was the site of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me, an interactive space that explored the intersections between art, therapeutic practice, and the ways in which we relate to objects and people through physical encounters. Read more
Warm Up, MoMA PS1’s vibrant annual music series, has become a staple of New York City summers. The series features a curated program that explores a vast range of experimental music, live bands, and DJs. Read more
We are entering the fourth week of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me and want to share some of the highlights of the artist-led workshops that have activated the space so far. Each one revealed the ways in which Lygia Clark’s work continues to resonate with contemporary artists and their hopes to engage the public in experiences of art that are physical and social in nature. Read more
Last Friday, May 16, we celebrated the opening of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me, an interactive space that has been organized in conjunction with the exhibition Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988, on view in the sixth-floor galleries through August 24, 2014. Taking Clark’s art as a reference point, the Studio presents a series of drop-in programs, participatory experiences, and artist-led workshops that explore the intersections between art, therapeutic practice, and the ways in which we relate to objects and people through physical encounters.
Like all previous MoMA Studios, MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me is a free, interactive space open to visitors of all ages, and offers experiential learning experiences that complement looking and talking about works of art in the galleries, allowing for engagement with art in hands-on, creative ways. Visitors can experiment, learn, play, and create as they make connections between their lives, their own creativity, and the processes and materials of modern and contemporary art.
The process of putting this particular MoMA Studio together has been a unique experience due to the nature of Lygia Clark’s work, which is often dynamic and sensorial in nature—a quality that is highlighted in the exhibition itself, which has a central component that is about engaging the public in participatory ways within the galleries. This aspect of the exhibition parallels the planning of our Studio programming and has allowed for a fruitful collaboration with the curatorial team and the exhibition facilitators.
In developing the focus and scope of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me, and in the hopes of revealing the profound resonance Clark’s work has had with contemporary artists, we have collaborated with a talented group of artists from near and far, to present an exciting series of programs for this MoMA Studio. These artists include Ricardo Basbaum, Carlito Carvalhosa, Stephanie Diamond and Tamara Vanderwal, Michel Groisman, Jeanine Oleson, and Allison Smith.
Perhaps more than previous Studios, this one is conceived as a space that comes alive most with the activation of the workshops and events by willing participants, in collaboration with artists. This week the workshops kicked off with Carlito Carvalhosa’s public action in the The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden and MoMA Studio on May 20 and 21, followed by Michel Groisman’s Polvo and Sirva-Se workshops, which begin tomorrow, May 22 and run through the Memorial Day weekend. We are following Clark’s philosophy, “the work is in the act,” and we invite you all to join us! Visit MoMA.org/MoMAstudio for details.
UPNEXT is a comprehensive parenting program operating through Midtown Community Court that helps fathers to support their children both emotionally and financially. The UPNEXT program offers assistance to fathers who are struggling with unemployment and having difficulty paying child support; who are engaged in seeking custody of or visitation rights with their children; or are simply looking for ways to be more involved in their child’s life. Read more
What happens when the Museum turns into a laboratory for artists?
This year MoMA’s Department of Education invited artists Allison Smith, Paul Ramirez Jonas, and the creative collective The Office for Creative Research to be part of the second year of Artists Experiment, an initiative to develop public engagement experiences through collaboration with contemporary artists. Exploring MoMA’s history, resources, and spaces, each of these artists approaches the Museum like a laboratory—a place for thinking, collaborating, and experimenting with the museum experience and our visitors.
San Francisco–based artist Allison Smith’s work investigates the cultural phenomenon of historical reenactment, or “living history,” using it as a means of addressing the relationship between American history, social activism, and craft.
At MoMA, Allison is researching the history of the Department of Education, specifically exploring the work and programs developed by MoMA’s first director of education, Victor D’Amico. Allison is considering how MoMA’s rich history can speak to our current education practices, mining strategies and ideas from the past to inspire new experiences at the Museum today.
Brooklyn-based artist Paul Ramirez Jonas is interested in articulating shared stories and histories, working with and transforming different forms of public art and public symbols.
Paul has been looking at the visitor experience at MoMA, exploring public spaces designed for interaction including the bookstore and the Museum’s information desks.
He asks the question, how can we build on the visitor experience at MoMA.
New York–based collective The Office for Creative Research (O-C-R) includes artists and data experts Jer Thorp, Ben Rubin, and Mark Hansen, a multidisciplinary research group exploring new modes of engagement with data, through unique practices that borrow from science, technology, and the arts.
O-C-R is looking at massive amounts of information from the Museum’s collection database. From image titles to notes on how to install a work, O-C-R is thinking about how this data can be explored and activated by Museum visitors to facilitate interaction, learning, and exchange.
What can you expect?
Throughout the winter and spring, Artists Experiment will present a range of programs and interactions developed with each of these artists. To kick things off, we invite you to join us for the January 29 launch event, Social Exchange: Artists’ Reception. This special event is a chance to meet the artists in person and get a little taste of what’s to come. The Office for Creative Research and Allison Smith are creating an interactive, performative work for the evening, and Chef Lynn Bound is preparing a special menu in collaboration with Paul Ramirez Jonas. We hope you’ll join us for this warm, winter celebration!
Look out for other upcoming Artists Experiment programs at MoMA.org/artistsexperiment.
Recently, Family Programs staff were interested in testing out some of the activities under consideration for MoMA Art Lab: Movement before it opened (on October 10, 2013). Formative evaluation is a “try it out” method that is less formal than other evaluation types. Read more
As part of my research for Artists Experiment, I went to MoMA to sit side by side with the volunteers that staff the information desks. I was not 100% sure what I would find, but my instincts told me that there was something interesting about the situation Read more