• “Sigmar Polke: Works on Paper, 1963-1974”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art
    11 West 53rd Street
    April 1–June 16, 1999

    Curated by Margit Rowell

    Unlike our homegrown heroes, the Germans seem to have emerged from ’80s-style big painting (and postmodernism generally) with their reputations intact. At the top of the heap, Sigmar Polke is but a half step behind his fellow Capitalist Realist, ubiquitous über-artist of the moment, Gerhard Richter. This exhibition, the first major US museum show to focus on Polke’s drawings, gouaches, and sketchbooks, brings together 200 classic works on paper from 1963 to 1974. Organized by MoMA’S Margit Rowell, this exhibition, like the 1995-97 touring show of the artist’s photographic oeuvre, promises to round out the view of Polke’s production. Apr. 1–June 16; travels to Kunsthalle Hamburg July 16–Oct. 17.

  • “Jim Dine: Walking Memory, 1959-69”

    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum | New York
    1071 Fifth Avenue
    February 12–May 9, 1999

    Curated by Germano Celant and Clare Bell

    In the early ’90s, when talk at the Guggenheim turned to a full-blown Jim Dine retrospective, it didn’t sound like such a great idea. But now, with the focus on his early work, the moment feels right. Including documentation of his plucky participation in Happenings and his luscious, hand-painted Pop canvases, this 100-work exhibition, organized by the in-house team of Germano Celant and Clare Bell, will concentrate on Dine at his best on the precocious emblem maker of hearts and bathrobes, on the clever appropriator of found objects, from carpenter’s tools to the Venus de Milo. Feb. 12–May 9; travels to Cincinnati Art Museum, Oct. 22, 1999–Jan. 9, 2000.

  • “The Museum as Muse: Artists Reflect”

    MoMA - The Museum of Modern Art
    11 West 53rd Street
    March 11–June 1, 1999

    Curated by Kynaston McShine

    The birth of the museum in the late eighteenth century dramatically restructured the relation among artists, the public, and the exhibition of work; in this ambitious show, Kynaston McShine, senior curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, attempts an overview of the ramifications as reflected in the various, often ambivalent responses of twentieth-century artists to the institutions that house their efforts. “The Museum as Muse” is also something of a swan song for McShine, who is nearing retirement. A major curatorial force since the mid-’60s, his credits include several epochal exhibitions: “Primary Structures,” the groundbreaking 1966 survey of Minimalism; “Information,” the first comprehensive American exhibition of Conceptual art; and the 1987 Andy Warhol retrospective at MoMA. With “The Museum as Muse,” McShine once again stakes out decisive territory. Implicit in his conceit is the claim that the conversation between art and its institutions cuts a wide swath through the art of this century, gathering force in the work of recent decades.

    The exhibition is divided into five sections: “The Museum in Use,” “The Personal Museum,” “Natural History and Ethnography,” “The Museum Transformed,” and “Museum Politics.” “The Museum in Use” opens the show with a range of photographers—from Gary Winogrand and Larry Fink to Thomas Struth and Candida Höfer—documenting the various purposes museums serve for their publics. “The Personal Museum” addresses itself to those artists who have assembled their own, quasi-museological collections. McShine will include all seven editions of Marcel Duchamp’s Boîtes-en-valise, as well as the greater part of Joseph Cornell’s 1946 exhibition, “The Romantic Museum: Portraits of Women.” Departing from the art museum per se, “Natural History and Ethnography” turns its attention to other taxonomically inclined institutions, and includes works by Christopher Williams, Susan Hiller, and Lothar Baumgarten. Mark Dion is creating a special installation for the show, a contemporary “cabinet of curiosities” modeled on Aristotle’s theories of the natural world. In “The Museum Transformed,” one senses a nascent hostility or at least disrespect for the institution. The section includes the eighteenth-century painter Hubert Robert’s depictions of the Louvre as it appeared in his day and a proleptic vision of the edifice in ruin. Robert’s ruminations are updated by contemporaries Edward Ruscha (the Pasadena in flames) and Komar and Melamid (the Guggenheim demolished).

    The most provocative section of the show may prove to be “Museum Politics,” as it takes up the thorny issues that come under the rubric of institutional critique. As the mandarin, if by now embattled, purveyor of official modernism, MoMA provides a nicely overdetermined backdrop for the interventions assembled in this section. Indeed, it could be argued that the very premise of the exhibition subsumes this typically antagonistic approach. McShine demurs: “This is a broad overview. There’s no underlying polemic.”

  • “Ray Johnson: Correspondences”

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort Street
    January 14–April 14, 1999

    Curated by Donna De Salvo

    This exhibition offers a first opportunity to view the full range of Ray Johnson’s work, but please don’t call it a retrospective! The inventor of mail art both fully inhabited the art world and resisted its domesticating institutions. And even though Johnson’s Gesamtkunstwerk was his life, the “great communicator” was no open book. Curator Donna De Salvo sensibly sidesteps the summary and follows the bread crumbs: early paintings, collages, and roughly fifty years of correspondence. The news: This champion of the ephemeral made astonishingly beautiful work. Look for an upswing in Johnson dissertations on the heels of this necessary survey. Jan. 14–Mar. 21; travels to the Wexner Center, Jan. 28–Apr. 14, 2000.

  • “Stan Douglas/Douglas Gordon: Double Vision”

    Dia Center for the Arts
    542 West 22nd Street
    February 11–June 13, 1999

    Curated by Lynne Cooke

    If you’re tired of video art made by moonlighting painters and sculptors, this double-Douglas bill organized by the Dia’s Lynne Cooke promises relief. These film/video artists both confront their medium’s inherent temporality. Time is historical here, “documenting” a lost past or high-modern ideas gone wrong, but we are also made to experience, to feel time as such: The works are shot from viewpoints that don’t mesh, or they’re manipulated, as in Gordon’s daylong version of Psycho. Will the new installations, created expressly for this show, prove better than a night at the movies? A visit to the Dia will tell. Feb. 11–June 13; reopens in September.

  • “Fever: The Art of David Wojnarowicz”

    New Museum
    235 Bowery
    January 21–June 20, 1999

    The title of Wojnarowicz’s 1992 book, Memories That Smell Like Gasoline, may say it best; this first full-scale retrospective will remind many visitors of the corrosive cultural climate of the ’80s, the politics of AIDS, of homophobia, of conservative hostility to socially committed, sexually explicit art. Before his death, from AIDS, in 1992, Wojnarowicz was an articulately angry moral presence, in paintings, prints, sculpture, multimedia works, and also in his writings. None of the issues he addressed has gone away. The catalogue brings together excerpts from the artist’s writings with essays by the New Museum’s Dan Cameron, Dennis Cooper, and others.

  • “Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s”

    Queens Museum
    New York City Building Flushing Meadows
    April 29–August 22, 1999

    Recent exhibitions of Conceptual art have focused primarily on work produced in the United States and Europe during the ’60s and early ’70s. Organized by an international team of curators, “Global Conceptualism” casts its net wide: Works by Kosuth, Broodthaers, Piper, and other avatars of American and European Conceptualism are shown alongside lesser-known projects from Africa, Australia and New Zealand, East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Presenting over ninety artists of diverse origins, the Queens Museum of Art repackages the Conceptual model for a contemporary, globalized art world. Apr. 29–Aug. 22; travel venues to be announced.