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OFF THE WALL :: THE BEST ART IN NEW YORK RIGHT NOW

OFF THE WALL :: THE BEST ART IN NEW YORK RIGHT NOW

By Bobby Hundreds

I live and die West Coast, but there are just some things New York City does that go unrivaled against the world. Like European foods. Or svelte brunettes. The art… Especially the art.

A trip to New York isn’t complete without a 3am slice or a drink with Alex Corporan at Epstein’s (Happy birthday!). Just as you can’t leave the city without taking in some of the planet’s best artwork. From the classics at the Met to what’s next at the Jonathan Levine, we practically schedule our East Coast weeks around prominent exhibitions.

This week, the two biggest shows on display are Jeff Koons: A Retrospective at the Whitney Museum and Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010 at the MoMA.

Jeff Koons’ exhaustive repertoire is chronicled in his first major museum show in New York. With almost 150 works that span 4 decades, his retrospective details all of his career’s developments, tackling mass culture and consumerism, the involvement of self in sex and celebrity, and standing at the crossroads of art and commerce. It’s interesting to see how dated and trite some of his ideas are in 2014, yet how innovative and challenging they must have been in the ’80s. Koons’ art is easy to swallow for the layman, with its pop culture references and friendly illustrated fare, but the message resonates deeper throughout all the pieces. Isn’t that the point? Take a closer look at what’s right in front of you, seemingly nonthreatening and innocuous. Consider. What’s it really saying?

Although the Koons retrospective is garnering the loudest draw by media standards (and the line wrapped around the block all afternoon), there’s another important show going on right now at the MoMA that deserves your attention. It’s the late Sigmar Polke‘s art over the course of 50 years. The German artist was one of the 20th Century’s most diverse and prolific, having mastered painting to sculpture, film to performance, and it’s all on display. The first time Polke was referenced on this website was in 2009, when we accompanied Dave Choe, James Jean, and Sam from Friends With You to Polke’s show at the Michael Werner Gallery. At the time, I wrote, “In the art circle, Sigmar Polke is well-regarded as the artist of our generation, primarily because of his inventiveness.” He would die exactly one year later.

It is hard to believe that so much contrasting and seemingly disjointed artwork was all produced under the same hand. I can’t say that I necessarily love the technique or composition or subject matter of all of Polke’s pieces, but the mere statement alone that he defies classification – that he can’t be categorized or pigeonholed or abbreviated – is enough to make him one of the best.

With time to spare, Ben and I took a moment to stop by some of our other favorites sprinkled around the MoMA, like Jasper Johns (here), Warhol, Basquiat…

But of course the argument can be made – especially these days – that the best art to come out of New York City doesn’t require standing in line, a museum membership, or a ticket fee. And yes, photography is allowed. It’s the graffiti, the street art, the wheat pastes, the stickers, and the stencils. It’s this POSE mural on Broome and Lafayette as part of the LISA project.

…and you can’t speak of New York and street art without highlighting the one and only Kenny Scharf.

A sign of things to come for The Hundreds? The writing’s on the wall…

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