From the earliest conversations about recreating The Newsstand at The Museum of Modern Art in Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015, artist Lele Saveri was insistent that the physical work alone was not enough.
The community around The Newsstand—the artists, publishers, performers, illustrators, and photographers that produced work, staffed the booth, bought work, and participated in the events—was the real center of the space.
But, of course, MoMA is not a subway station, and not everything could be exactly replicated. Instead, we developed a system that tried to represent the original community as closely as possible, while acknowledging the differences. One way was by including this Newsstand community: over the course of the exhibition, a cohort of volunteers who “staffed” The Newsstand became an integral part of the exhibition for our visitors. Four days a week, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., they answered questions, explained the space, described its original location and their own experience with it, and guided visitors through hundreds of zines and objects.
Another way was by putting on five “events” from the dozens of events the original Newsstand hosted. Once a month over the duration of the exhibition, these events completely changed the space of The Newsstand, harkening back to its original existence as a continually evolving community. The MoMA presentation is an archive of the original stand, and that includes events that engaged both a local artistic community and hordes of straphangers on their daily commute.
The opening event was a DJ set by Chances with Wolves, a music project by Kray DioBelly and Kenan Juska. The pair has made over 300 radio shows since 2008, basing their creations on obscure, strange, lost, or forgotten sounds and music. For two hours on a Friday afternoon, Chances with Wolves spun records in the MoMA galleries, bringing their sounds to UNIQLO Free Friday Night visitors.
Then in December, Pau Wau Publication, an independent press founded by photographer Andreas Laszlo Konrath and designer Brian Paul Lamotte, presented Zine Time, a one-day exhibition that featured artwork by 20 artists on the exterior of The Newsstand, and a vending machine that dispensed a limited-edition zine with sample spreads by those same artists.
MoMA visitors operated the heavy metal vending machine, and walked away with their very own piece of readable art.
In January, Nathaniel Matthews installed his one-day exhibition Me with Cops, filling The Newsstand with photographs and zines that feature exactly what the title implies: Matthews posing with various members of the NYPD. He covered all the regular objects and zines in the stand, creating a claustrophobic and immersive environment of portraits.
Just last month, India Menuez hosted BOOKLUB 10, a day of performance at The Newsstand. Participants—some who planned ahead of time, some Museum visitors who were inspired to join in—read, danced, performed, sang, and recited the whole day, drawing large crowds. This was the 10th edition of the BOOKLUB participatory performance series.
The final Newsstand event is happening on Monday, March 14. Lele Saveri will take over the stand for the entire day with his installation Commuters, a series of hundreds of portraits of passersby taken during the 10-month duration of The Newsstand in Brooklyn’s Lorimer Street/Metropolitan Avenue subway station. The pictures form a collective portrait of that time and place, and were exhibited at the end of the original stand’s existence; Saveri allowed any commuters who recognized themselves to take their portrait home. Commuters is also a fitting way to celebrate the work in its last week of existence at MoMA, before the exhibition closes on March 20.