2021 Triennial: Soft Water Hard Stone


“Soft Water Hard Stone,” the fifth New Museum Triennial, brings together works across mediums by forty artists and collectives from around the world.

Cover Image:

“2021 Triennial: Soft Water Hard Stone,” 2021. Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. Photo: Dario Lasagni

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The title of the 2021 Triennial, “Soft Water Hard Stone,” is taken from a Brazilian proverb, versions of which are found across cultures:

Água mole em pedra dura, tanto bate até que fura (Soft water on hard stone hits until it bores a hole).

The proverb can be said to have two meanings: if one persists long enough, the desired effect can eventually be achieved; and time can destroy even the most perceptibly solid materials. The title speaks to ideas of resilience and perseverance, and the impact that an insistent yet discrete gesture can have in time. It also provides a metaphor for resistance, as water—a constantly flowing and transient material—is capable of eventually dissolving stone—a substance associated with permanence, but also composed of tiny particles that can collapse under pressure.

In this moment of profound change, where structures that were once thought to be stable are disintegrating or on the edge of collapse, the 2021 Triennial recognizes artists re-envisioning traditional models, materials, and techniques beyond established paradigms. Their works exalt states of transformation, calling attention to the malleability of structures, porous and unstable surfaces, and the fluid and adaptable potential of both technological and organic mediums. Throughout the exhibition, artists address the regenerative potential of the natural world and our inseparable relationship to it, and grapple with entrenched legacies of colonialism, displacement, and violence. Their works look back at overlooked histories and artistic traditions, while at the same time look forward toward the creative potential that might give dysfunctional or discarded remains new life. It is through their reconfigurations and reimaginings that we are reminded of not only our temporality, but also our adaptability—fundamental characteristics we share, and that keep us human.

“Soft Water Hard Stone” is curated by Margot Norton, Allen and Lola Goldring Curator at the New Museum, and Jamillah James, Senior Curator, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA), with Jeanette Bisschops, Curatorial Fellow, and Bernardo Mosqueira, ISLAA Curatorial Fellow.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue copublished by the New Museum and Phaidon Press Limited. Designed by Elizabeth Karp-Evans and Adam Turnbull of Studio Pacific, the catalogue and includes contributions from Jamillah James, Margot Norton, Karen Archey, Eunsong Kim, and Bernardo Mosqueira, and features original interviews with all forty artists participating in the exhibition.


The New Museum Triennial is the only recurring international exhibition in New York City devoted to emerging artists from around the world, providing an important platform for a new generation of artists who are shaping the current discourse of contemporary art and the future of culture. The first edition was initiated in 2009 with “Younger Than Jesus,” organized by Massimiliano Gioni, Laura Hoptman, and Lauren Cornell. The second Triennial, “The Ungovernables,” was organized by Eungie Joo in 2012. The third Triennial, “Surround Audience,” was organized by Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin with Sara O’Keeffe and Helga Christoffersen in 2015. The fourth Triennial, “Songs for Sabotage,” was organized by Gary Carrion-Murayari and Alex Gartenfeld with Francesca Altamura in 2018.


Haig Aivazian (b. 1980 Beirut, Lebanon; lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon)
Evgeny Antufiev (b. 1986 Kyzyl, Russia; lives and works in Moscow, Russia)
Alex Ayed (b. 1989 Strasbourg, France; lives and works in Brussels, Belgium, and Tunis, Tunisia)
Nadia Belerique (b. 1982 Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; lives and works in Toronto, Canada)
Hera Büyüktaşçıyan (b. 1984 Istanbul, Turkey; lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey)
Gabriel Chaile (b. 1985 San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina; lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal)
Gaëlle Choisne (b. 1985 Cherbourg, France; lives and works in Paris, France)
Krista Clark (b. 1975 Burlington, VT, United States; lives and works in Atlanta, GA, United States)
Kate Cooper (b. 1984, Liverpool, United Kingdom; lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Cynthia Daignault (b. 1978 Baltimore, MD, United States; lives and works in Baltimore, MD, United States)
Tomás Díaz Cedeño (b. 1983 Mexico City, Mexico; lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico)
Jes Fan (b. 1990 Toronto, Canada; lives and works in New York, NY, United States and Hong Kong)
Jeneen Frei Njootli (Vuntut Gwitchin) (b. 1988 Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada; lives and works in Vancouver, Canada)
Goutam Ghosh (b. 1979 Nabadwip, India; lives and works in Kolkata, India)
Harry Gould Harvey IV (b. 1991 Fall River, MA, United States; lives and works in Fall River, MA, United States)
Clara Ianni (b. 1987 São Paolo, Brazil; lives and works in São Paolo, Brazil)
Kahlil Robert Irving (b. 1992 San Diego, CA, United States; lives and works in St. Louis, MO, United States)
Arturo Kameya (b. 1984 Lima, Peru; lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Laurie Kang (b. 1985 Toronto, Canada; lives and works in Toronto, Canada)
Bronwyn Katz (b. 1993 Kimberly, South Africa; lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa)
Ann Greene Kelly (b. 1988 New York, NY, United States; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, United States)
Kang Seung Lee (b. 1978 Seoul, South Korea; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, United States)
Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho (b. 1987 Dallas, TX, United States; lives and works in New York, NY, United States) and (b. 1985 Manila, Philippines; lives and works in Berlin, Germany)
Angelika Loderer (b. 1984 Feldbach, Austria; lives and works in Vienna, Austria)
Tanya Lukin Linklater (Alutiiq) (b. 1976 Kodiak, AK, United States; lives and works in North Bay, Ontario, Canada)
Sandra Mujinga (b. 1989 Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo; lives and works in Oslo, Norway and Berlin, Germany)
Gabriela Mureb (b. 1985 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
Brandon Ndife (b. 1991 Hammond, IN, United States; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, United States)
Erin Jane Nelson (b. 1989 Neenah, WI, United States; lives and works in Atlanta, GA, United States)
Ima-Abasi Okon (b. 1981 London, United Kingdom; lives and works in London, United Kingdom and Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Christina Pataialii (b. 1988 Auckland, New Zealand; lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand)
Thao Nguyen Phan (b. 1987 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
Nickola Pottinger (b. 1986 Kingston, Jamaica; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
Rose Salane (b. 1992 New York, NY, United States; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
Blair Saxon-Hill (b. 1979 Eugene, OR, United States; lives and works in Portland, OR, United States)
Samara Scott (b. 1984 London, United Kingdom; lives and works in London, United Kingdom)
Amalie Smith (b. 1985 Copenhagen, Denmark; lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark)
Iris Touliatou (b. 1981 Athens, Greece; lives and works in Athens, Greece)
Ambera Wellmann (b. 1982 Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, Canada; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
Yu Ji (b. 1985 Shanghai, China; lives and works in Shanghai, China)

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Lead Support for the 2021 Triennial, “Soft Water Hard Stone,” is provided by the Friends of the Triennial.

Shelley Fox Aarons, Charlotte Feng Ford, Ken Kuchin, and Toby Devan Lewis

Travel and Research Fund
Jerri and Steven Nagelberg

Alexandra Bowes
Peter Boyce II
James-Keith Brown and Eric G. Diefenbach
Maureen Carr and Walter Nollmann
Glori and Meir Cohen
Abbie and Patrick Dean
Dudley and Michael Del Balso
Sandra and Leo DelZotto
Rebecca and Martin Eisenberg
Judith and Paul Fried
Carol and Arthur Goldberg
Elaine Goldman
Christina Hribar
Tina Kim
Ahmet Kocabiyik
Jill and Peter Kraus
Lynn K. and Jules Kroll
Stanley Lumax
Lorraine and Edouard Malingue
Iris Marden
Carlos Marsano
Daniel Palacio
Tommie Pegues and Don Capoccia
Steven Pulimood
Almine Rech and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso
Debbie and Mitchell Rechler
Lisa Roumell and Mark Rosenthal
Sybille and Gregorio Schneider
Lyn and Sam Schwab
Susan and Kent Seelig
Tracey Serko
Amir Shariat
Michael Wise
Laurie and David Wolfert
Neda Young
Rosina Lee Yue
Margot and Scott Ziegler

Major support is provided by the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation.

Support for this exhibition is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists
Exhibitions Fund.

Artist commissions are generously supported by the Neeson / Edlis Artist
Commissions Fund.

Artist support is provided, in part, by Laura Skoler.

Additional support is provided by:
Danish Arts Foundation
FACE Foundation*
Ford Family Foundation
Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte
Jane Hait and Justin Beal
Korea Arts Management Service
Mondriaan Fund
OCA: Office for Contemporary Art Norway
Phileas and con-tempus
Royal Norwegian Consulate General in New York
Debbie and Mitchell Rechler
Judy Rechler
SAHA Association
Tracey Serko
Laurie Wolfert

Funding for travel and research was generously provided by: Adjara Group and Natia Bukia; Sunita and Vijay Choraria; Czech Centres; Danish Arts Foundation; FACE Foundation and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy; Dakis Joannou; The Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Tunis; OCA: Office for Contemporary Art Norway; Polish Cultural Institute; and VIA Art Foundation.

Education and community programs are supported, in part, by the American Chai Trust.

We gratefully acknowledge the International Leadership Council of the New Museum.

Special thanks to Bernard Lumpkin and Carmine Boccuzzi, Poncher Family Foundation, and Sunny Y. Goldberg.

Thanks to Barro, Buenos Aires and New York; Carlos/Ishikawa, London; Empty Gallery, Hong Kong; Galerie Balice Hertling, Paris; Gallery Hyundai, Seoul; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; and The Sunday Painter, London.

Ace Hotel is the official hotel sponsor of the 2021 Triennial.

Support for the publication has been provided by the J. McSweeney and G. Mills Publications Fund at the New Museum.

* Etant donnés Contemporary Art is a program of Villa Albertine and FACE Foundation, in partnership with the French Embassy in the United States, with support from the French Ministry of Culture, Institut français, Ford Foundation, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, CHANEL, and ADAGP.

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