After three decades of hubbub, the New Museum of Contemporary Art will open tomorrow on the Bowery. The New York Times‘ Roberta Smith writes that its inaugural exhibition “Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century” celebrates the New Museum’s upgrade with a display of art and ideas that every curator of contemporary art in New York should study.
It took the New Museum three decades to put down roots. After being invented over several months in 1977 by the dynamic Marcia Tucker, it spent most of its life in a renovated, notoriously unaccommodating space at the bottom of a SoHo loft. It did a lot of growing up in public, and, at its best, functioned as a thorn in the side of established museum culture. Ms. Tucker, who stepped down in 1999 and died last year, created an institution dedicated to the new, the political and the difficult. It is hard to imagine the current romance between American museums and contemporary art — for better and for worse — without her fierce example.
“Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century,” the museum’s ambitious inaugural exhibition, tries to confront and leaven that romance.