New
Museum

History

The New Museum began as an idea in the mind of founding Director Marcia Tucker. As a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1967 through 1976, Tucker observed firsthand that new work by living artists was not easily assimilated into the conventional exhibition and collection structure of the traditional art museum.


Portrait of Marcia Tucker The care and attention that these venerable institutions lavished on older, established artists and artworks was not yet being extended to art being made in the present. Interested in bringing the scholarly practices of these older institutions to younger artists and their work, Tucker imagined an institution devoted to presenting, studying, and interpreting contemporary art.

When Tucker officially founded the New Museum on January 1, 1977, it was the first museum devoted to contemporary art established in New York City since the Second World War. Positioned between a traditional museum and an alternative space, the New Museum’s stated mission was to be a catalyst for a broad dialogue between artists and the public by establishing “an exhibition, information, and documentation center for contemporary art made within a period of approximately ten years prior to the present.” The Museum presented the work of living artists who did not yet have wide public exposure or critical acceptance to a broader public.

The first New Museum exhibition was organized by Tucker at C Space, an alternative space not far from the Museum’s temporary offices on Hudson Street in Tribeca. Entitled “Memory,” the exhibition reflected on connections between personal and collective memory, a meditation on the function of the museum and the making of cultural history. This show—like every New Museum exhibition that has followed—was accompanied by a catalogue, documenting the exhibition for present and future audiences.

Left: “Memory: at C Space,” 1977. Installation view. Right: Marcia Tucker, Founding Director of the New Museum, ca. 1973–75

In July 1977, the New Museum moved to a small gallery and office located at the New School for Social Research at 65 Fifth Avenue at 14th Street. The space was donated to the Museum by Trustee Vera List to provide a temporary home until the New Museum could find a more permanent space. Early exhibitions were organized by curators Allan Schwartzman, Susan Logan, and Marcia Tucker. In 1983, Board President Henry (Hank) Luce III negotiated a long-term lease for the New Museum in the Astor Building in SoHo at 583 Broadway, between Houston and Prince Streets, where the New Museum had a much larger gallery space and offices, and, after a major renovation in 1997, a bookstore with an international selection of publications on art, theory, and culture at large.

Left: New Museum staff members: John Jacobs, Ned Rifkin, and Marcia Tucker, ca. 1980. Right: The New Museum building at 583 Broadway ca. 1985. Exhibition space included a street-level window

Throughout the 1980s, the exhibition program encompassed monographic exhibitions of emerging artists and group shows organized around important social and political issues by curators Lynn Gumpert, Ned Rifkin, and Brian Wallis. Examples of the first type included early solo presentations by Joan Jonas (1984), Martin Puryear (1984), Leon Golub (1984), Linda Montano (1984), Allen Ruppersberg (1985), Kim Jones (1986), Hans Haacke (1987), Bruce Nauman (1987), Christian Boltanski (1988), Ana Mendieta (1988), Nancy Spero (1989), and Mary Kelly (1990), while the multi-artist exhibitions “Art and Ideology” (1984), “Difference: On Representation and Sexuality” (1984), and “Damaged Goods: Desire and the Economy of the Object” (1986) established the Museum’s reputation for engaging with postmodernism and critical theory. This was supported by an expanded publication program, particularly the series Documentary Sources in Contemporary Art. The first volume in this series Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation (1984) is an interdisciplinary collection of texts on contemporary art criticism, initially edited by Brian Wallis, which has become a touchstone of postmodernist scholarship.

Clockwise From Top Left: Works by Allan McCollum and Jeff Koons. Installation view: “Damaged Goods: Desire and the Economy of the Object,” 1986. Installation views from 583 Broadway: “Ana Mendieta: A Retrospective” (1987–88); “Cildo Meirless” (1999–2000); and “Christian Boltanski: Lessons of Darkness” (1988–89)

Beginning in the late 1980s, with exhibitions organized by curators William Olander and Laura Trippi, the New Museum placed increasing emphasis on areas other than painting and sculpture, and presented film, video, television, photography, and performance works as a regular part of the exhibition program. When Dan Cameron and Gerardo Mosquera joined the curatorial department in 1996, the exhibition program began to focus increasingly on solo exhibitions by significant international artists who had not yet received attention in the US, including Mona Hatoum (1998), Doris Salcedo (1998), Xu Bing (1998), Cildo Meireles (2000), William Kentridge (2001), Marlene Dumas (2002), and Hélio Oiticica (2002). The program also continued to include influential older artists who were not yet widely recognized, such as Carolee Schneemann (1996), Martha Rosler (2000), Paul McCarthy (2001), and Carroll Dunham (2003). The Museum’s mission to show only living artists was also officially amended so that work by recently deceased artists—particularly in the wake of the AIDS crisis—could be displayed and memorialized.

Left: “Paul McCarthy” (2001). Right: “Carolee Schneemann: Up To And Including Her Limits” (1996–97)

By 1999, when Lisa Phillips was appointed Director, the Museum’s program had far outstripped the limited gallery spaces of 583 Broadway, and in 2002, the New Museum announced plans to construct a new building designed to accommodate the dynamic scale of public events, exhibitions, and educational activities. After an international competition, Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA Ltd. were selected to design the New Museum’s first dedicated building to be located in a former parking lot on the Bowery.

On December 1, 2007, the New Museum re-opened at 235 Bowery with facilities including a theater, five floors of gallery spaces, and a distinctive Sky Room with panoramic views of lower Manhattan. The inaugural exhibition, curated by Richard Flood, Chief Curator, Laura Hoptman, Senior Curator, and Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Exhibitions, was “Unmonumental,” an international group show in four parts that examined the medium of sculpture in contemporary art practices. Today, the New Museum serves diverse and expanding audiences, including artists, students, and residents of the Lower East Side, as well as a growing international audience through new initiatives, such as the Museum as Hub and 2011’s Festival of Ideas for a New City, which continue to foster dialogues between artists and their public.

Isa Genzken, Elefant, 2006; Empire Vampire I, 2003. Installation view: “Unmonumental,” 2007

Timeline

1977

New Museum staff members: Marcia Tucker, A.C. Bryson, Allan Schwartzman, Susan Logan, and Michiko Miyamoto, ca. 1977

Marcia Tucker founds the New Museum on January 1 with support from founding Trustee Allen Goldring. A small staff of four occupies an office in New York’s Fine Arts Building at 105 Hudson Street in Tribeca and the first exhibitions are presented off-site.

In July, the New Museum moves into office quarters and an exhibition space at the Graduate Center of the New School for Social Research at 65 Fifth Avenue at 14th Street with the help of Trustee Vera List. In November, the New Museum presents its first exhibition at the New School space, “Early Works by Five Contemporary Artists,” examining previously unexhibited works by Ron Gorchov, Elizabeth Murray, Dennis Oppenheim, Dorothea Rockburne, and Joel Shapiro, organized by curators Susan Logan, Allan Schwartzman, and Marcia Tucker.

1978

In January, the New Museum mounts the controversial exhibition “‘Bad’ Painting,” curated by Marcia Tucker, which questions the concept of taste. In her catalogue essay, Tucker argues that ideas of good and bad are flexible and subject to both the immediate and the larger context in which the work is seen. The exhibition is part of a larger critical debate then crystallizing around theories of postmodernism.

Marcia Tucker at the opening of “‘Bad’ Painting,” 1978

1979

The New Museum inaugurates the Windows series in which artists are invited to create installations in the street-level windows along 5th Avenue. Invited artists in the first two years include Mary Lemley (1979), John Ahearn (1979), Laurie Hawkinson (1980), Jeff Koons (1980), David Hammons (1980), and Richard Prince (1980). The Windows series continues when the Museum moves to 583 Broadway and becomes one of the most distinctive features of the program in that building.

Jeff Koons, “The New,” 1980. Window installation view

1980

The New Museum launches the High School Art Program (HSAP), one of the first museum education programs in the country to engage at-risk teenagers in contemporary art. It pairs high school students with high school teachers on a semester-long basis with the goal of integrating contemporary art with social studies, language arts, and studio art curricula. The initiative also expands these curricula through a multicultural and interdisciplinary approach that encourages students to explore connections between contemporary art practices and broader cultural and social issues.

1982

“Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art” is the first exhibition to consider the aesthetics of artists who identify as gay and lesbian. The show is organized by guest curator Dan Cameron, who is later appointed Senior Curator in 1996.

1983

With help from Trustee and Counsel Herman Schwartzman, Board President Henry (Hank) Luce III negotiates a major donation of ground floor space to the New Museum in the Astor Building in SoHo. On September 1, 1983, the New Museum moves into 583 Broadway, a historic building between Houston and Prince Streets.

1984

Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation, edited by Brian Wallis, 1984

The High School Art Program is renamed the Visible Knowledge Program (VKP) and continues the New Museum’s commitment to educational and professional development for public high schools. In 2005, VKP evolves into G:Class, the Global Classroom.

The Museum’s curatorial staff—Lynn Gumpert and Ned Rifkin, along with Marcia Tucker—organize “Paradise Lost/Paradise Regained: American Visions of the New Decade” for the American Pavilion at the 41st Venice Biennale.

The New Museum begins commissioning and producing exclusive Limited Editions by prominent American and international artists to support the Museum. Claes Oldenburg’s Tipsy Tilting Neon Cocktail is the first in the series. Bruce Nauman, Jenny Holzer, Louise Bourgeois, William Kentridge, Ai Weiwei, and Julie Mehretu, among many others, have participated.

The New Museum launches the publications series “Documentary Sources in Contemporary Art,” funded by the Henry Luce Fund for Scholarship in American Art. The first volume, Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation, edited by Brian Wallis, includes seminal texts by critics including Benjamin Buchloh, Jonathan Crary, Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Lucy Lippard, and Abigail Solomon-Godeau, along with historical documents and artists’ writings. The series continues with Blasted Allegories: An Anthology of Writings by Contemporary Artists (1987), and Discourses: Conversations in Postmodern Art and Culture (1990). In the ’90s, publications take on the politics of internationalization in Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures (1990), edited by Russell Ferguson, Martha Geever, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Cornel West, Talking Visions: Multicultural Feminism in a Transnational Age (1998), edited by Ella Shohat, and Over Here: International Perspectives on Art and Culture (2004), edited by Gerardo Mosquera and Jean Fisher.

1985

Visitor to the SoHo Library at the New Museum ca. 1989

Arts patron Larry Aldrich donates the SoHo Center for the Visual Arts Library to the New Museum. More than 48,000 volumes, including artist’s monographs and books, works of art history and theory, catalogues from national and international exhibitions, and current art periodicals are included. In 2006, the Museum re-gifts this library to NYU Libraries, where it currently resides under the name New Museum Library.

1987

Window installation view: “Let the Record Show,” 1987

“Let the Record Show…,” one of the first major art world responses to the AIDS crisis, is organized by Curator William Olander with ACT-UP, sparking the organization of Gran Fury, an activist artists collective that used graphic design strategies to raise awareness about AIDS. The show takes the form of an installation in the window on Broadway that includes the iconic graphic SILENCE=DEATH as a neon sign.

1989

Senior Curator William Olander dies of AIDS at the age of thirty-eight in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Originally trained as an art historian focusing on the nineteenth-century, Olander curated numerous exhibitions exploring how contemporary art engages social and political conditions, including “The Art of Memory/The Loss of History” (1985) and “Fake” (1987).

1990

“The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s” is co-organized by and co-presented by New Museum curators Laura Trippi and Gary Sangster with the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem. The exhibition is conceived and realized by three institutions with different racial and cultural constituencies, and contributes to the emerging debate on multiculturalism in the art world.

Left: “The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s” (gallery view); Albert Chong. Right: 36 Tactics; Epoxy Art Group Image

1994

The Astor Building at 583 Broadway is purchased and developed into luxury condominiums. The building is renamed the New Museum Building. Trustee Saul Dennison, who becomes President of the Board in 1998, negotiates the acquisition of the second floor as part of a plan to increase the Museum’s exhibition and office space.

1996

The New Museum, in collaboration with Routledge, publishes _Contemporary Art and Multicultural Education_—also known as the CAME guide—by New Museum Deputy Director and Curator of Education Susan Cahan and art historian Zoya Kocur. The book connects everyday experience, social critique, and creative expression with classroom learning, and includes color reproductions of artworks; statements in English and Spanish from more than fifty contemporary artists; lesson plans for using art to explore subjects such as American identity, changing definitions of the family, AIDS, discrimination, racism, homophobia, mass media, and public art; and resources, including annotated bibliographies for further study.

In November, the New Museum launches its first capital campaign. Within a year, it raises $3.79 million, enough to pay for the first phase of the renovation and expansion on Broadway, almost doubling the size of its exhibition space and providing offices above ground.

1997

Following a renovation by Kiss and Cathcart, the New Museum reopens with increased gallery space. The New Museum Store opens in the renovated basement level. Guided by a team of curators and book buyers, the Store stocks monographs, critical texts, and visual reference volumes from galleries, museums, small presses, artists, and commercial publishers from around the world.

1998

The New Museum concentrates on expanding its global scope by presenting a series of one-person exhibitions of contemporary artists from outside of the US and Europe under the curatorial leadership of Senior Curator Dan Cameron and Curator-at-large Gerardo Mosquera. The exhibitions organized under this new mandate include Mona Hatoum (1998), Doris Salcedo (1998), Cildo Meireles (2000), William Kentridge (2001), Marlene Dumas (2002), and Hélio Oiticica (2002).

Mona Hatoum, Current Disturbance, 1996. Installation view: “Mona Hatoum,” 1998

1999

Lisa Phillips, Toby Devan Lewis Director Lisa Phillips becomes Director of the New Museum, succeeding Marcia Tucker. Prior to joining the New Museum, Phillips, like Tucker, was a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Phillips begins to formulate an expanded vision for the institution—one that includes collaborative partnerships, platforms for digital art, and the construction of the Museum’s first dedicated building. She also co-curates major surveys of Paul McCarthy (2001), Carroll Dunham (2002), and John Waters (2004).

2000

On November 16, the New Museum launches the Media Lounge, New York’s only museum space dedicated to new-media exhibitions. Designed by LOT-EK, the Z-Media Lounge integrates art, technology, and architecture and is a unique space to experience artworks engaged with the forms and practices of new media.

2002

In December, the New Museum announces it will construct its own freestanding building on a parking lot at 235 Bowery. An international architectural search is conducted, and by the year’s end, five firms are selected as finalists from an initial pool of thirty for a design competition: Abalos & Herreros (Spain), Adjaye Associates (England), Gigon/Guyer (Switzerland), Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA Ltd. (Japan), and Reiser + Umemoto RUR Architecture P.C. (US).

Parking lot at 235 Bowery, ca. 2004

2003

On May 15, the New Museum announces that Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA Ltd. have been selected to design its new building, and a capital campaign is launched. The design—consisting of stacked boxes shifting off a central core—is unveiled in November.

Phillips brings on Rhizome.org as an affiliate of the New Museum. Rhizome, a leading online platform for the emerging new-media art community, operates its programs in accordance with its mission and core principles, and retains its identity as a separate organizational entity. The New Museum provides office space and administrative support for Rhizome, and some programs are produced collaboratively by both organizations.

Rhizome ArtBase 101

2004

The New Museum inaugurates 3M, in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Working cooperatively, the three museums combine their resources to commission and exhibit major projects from leading contemporary artists. Patty Chang, Fiona Tan, and Aernout Mik are awarded the first cycle of commissions; their subsequent individual exhibitions at all three venues represent the first major museum exhibitions in the US for each of these artists.

The New Museum sells 583 Broadway and moves to temporary quarters at the Chelsea Art Museum.

2005

In fall, the Museum breaks ground for its new building at 235 Bowery. The New Museum at 235 Bowery is the first new art museum ever constructed from the ground up below 14th Street in Manhattan.

The Global Classroom (G:Class) is founded as an innovative interdisciplinary museum education program that encourages visual literacy and critical thinking skills in high school students by integrating contemporary art into the core curriculum. It emphasizes inquiry-based education, problem solving, and self-expression by connecting the New Museum’s mission, resources, and programs with students’ personal, political, and cultural realities. G:Class expands and replaces the Visible Knowledge Program, which ends after twenty-one years when the museum moves out of 583 Broadway.

Left: Ground breaking ceremony at 235 Bowery. Right: G:Class in session

2006

New Museum Founding Director Marcia Tucker dies at the age of sixty-six at her home in Santa Barbara, California.

2007

Left: “In and Out of Context,” installation view. Rana Hamadeh “INTERROGATIONS 1–5 when they ask me I’ll introduce them to you,” 2008–09. Five-channel audio, text. Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, for “Be(com)ing Dutch.” Right: Young Whan Bae, “Tomorrow,” 2009. Cardboard and wooden models for proposed public libraries. Collection Gyeonngi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Benoit Pailley

In July, the New Museum announces the launch of Museum as Hub, a major new initiative exploring art and ideas through an international partnership with Insa Art Space, (Seoul, South Korea), Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo (Mexico City, Mexico), Townhouse Gallery of Contemporary Art (Cairo, Egypt), and Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, the Netherlands). With a dedicated space in the New Museum’s Bowery building as well as a dedicated website, Museum as Hub is a twenty-first-century cultural laboratory, an educational/curatorial hybrid and a platform for global dialogue through institutional collaboration.

The 3M initiative embarks on its second (and final) cycle of commissions/exhibitions, and features Mathias Poledna, Daria Martin, and Urban China.

On December 1, the New Museum opens its first freestanding, dedicated building, with the inaugural exhibition “Unmonumental,” an international group show in four parts, curated by Richard Flood, Chief Curator, Laura Hoptman, Senior Curator, and Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Special Exhibitions. Also on view are special projects by YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES, Ugo Rondinone, Jeffrey Inaba, and Sharon Hayes.

2008

Solo shows devoted to international artists continue with major exhibitions by Urs Fischer (2010), Rivane Neuenschwander (2010), Carsten Höller (2011), and Rosemarie Trockel (2012). Surveys of American artists Paul Chan (2008), Mary Heilmann (2008), Elizabeth Peyton (2008), Lynda Benglis (2011), and George Condo (2011) are also mounted.

2009

The first edition of the New Museum’s signature Generational Triennial, “Younger Than Jesus,” is organized by Massimiliano Gioni, Director of Exhibitions, Laura Hoptman, Senior Curator, and Lauren Cornell, Director of Rhizome and adjunct curator, and includes fifty artists from twenty-five countries all born after 1976.

2011

Art and Multicultural Education is revised and reissued as Rethinking Art and Multicultural Education by a new generation of artists and writers, and edited by Eungie Joo, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs.

The Festival of Ideas for the New City is held from May 4–8 in New York. A large collaborative initiative that is founded and directed by the New Museum, and involves scores of downtown organizations, including universities, arts institutions, and community groups, the Festival serves as a platform for artists, writers, architects, engineers, designers, urban farmers, planners, and thought leaders to exchange ideas, propose solutions, and invite the public to participate.

2012

The second New Museum Triennial “The Ungovernables” is organized by Eungie Joo, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs. The exhibition features thirty-four artists, artist groups, and temporary collectives—totaling over fifty participants—born between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, many of whom have never before exhibited in the US.

Massimiliano Gioni is appointed Director of the Visual Arts sector of the 55th Venice Biennale scheduled for summer 2013. As Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions of the New Museum, Gioni focuses on the presentation of international artists who have not previously shown in American museums, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2011), Gustav Metzger (2011), Tacita Dean (2012), and Klara Lidén (2012), as well as innovative group exhibitions, including “After Nature” (2008), “Ostalgia” (2011), and “Ghosts in the Machine” (2012).

“The Ungovernables,” 2012. Exhibition view: New Museum. Photo: Benoit Pailley

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