Currently on view at Grey Art Gallery at NYU, ‘Mostly New: Selections from the NYU Art Collection‘. The exhibition presents modern and contemporary artworks, the majority of which have entered the New York University Art Collection over the last decade. This exhibition will be on view to June 28, 2023.
The exhibition presents a compelling sampling of the New York University Art Collection, with more than 90 artworks by nearly 60 artists. Curated by the Grey Art Gallery’s Lynn Gumpert and Michèle Wong, the show features recent acquisitions of modern and contemporary art from the Middle East by artists such as Farah Al Qasimi, Shahpour Pouyan, and Parviz Tanavoli and spotlights photography, with works by Harry Callahan, Peter Hujar, and Kenji Nakahashi, among others. Mostly New also debuts a selection of works from the Grey’s newly acquired Cottrell-Lovett Collection, donated by longtime art patrons, social activists, and downtown Manhattan residents Dr. James Cottrell and Mr. Joseph Lovett. Included are paintings and prints by Downtown New York artists such as Donald Baechler, Deborah Kass, and Glenn Ligon. Established in 1958—and stewarded by the Grey Art Gallery since the museum’s opening in 1975—the New York University Art Collection now comprises over 6,000 objects. Following such exhibitions as New York Cool: Painting and Sculpture from the NYU Art Collection (2008), Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965 (2017), and, most recently, Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish, and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection (2019), Mostly New offers visitors the opportunity to view never-seen and rarely displayed gems from a landmark academic art collection.
“While the Grey has been closed to the public, our staff has continued to care for and build the NYU Art Collection,” notes Lynn Gumpert, director of the Grey Art Gallery. “As the museum undergoes a major period of transition—thanks to the transformative gift from Joe Lovett and Jim Cottrell—Mostly New offers a fitting opportunity to refocus on the Grey’s core identity as a collecting institution.” Michèle Wong, the Grey’s Associate Director and Head of Collections and Exhibitions, adds, “As a longtime Grey staff member, I relish seeing both newer and older collection works together and on view— and reminding both the university community and our other audiences that the Grey provides a home for art and dialogue on NYU’s campus.”
Mostly New highlights one of the NYU Art Collection’s strongest components—modern American art from the 1940s to the present, particularly paintings and prints by artists who lived and worked in the rich cultural landscape of downtown New York City. Figurative works by luminaries like Keith Haring and Andy Warhol introduce viewers to other influential figures of the downtown arts scene in the 1980s, such as dancers Bill T. Jones and Jock Soto. Work by artist Donald Baechler, who emerged in the ’80s as part of the East Village creative community alongside the likes of Warhol and Haring, reveals the artist’s interest in formal issues of line, shape, and color. Likewise, Brooklyn-based artist Deborah Kass explores pop culture as it intersects with art history. A late painting by Grace Hartigan, an influential member of the New York School, shows how the artist blended her signature Abstract Expressionist sensibility with a renewed interest in the figure. Influenced by 1960s counterculture and life in her native California, work by Mary Heilmannpresents an upbeat, eccentric view of geometric abstraction. While Glenn Ligon is best known for works comprising stenciled fragments of famous texts, a 2004 print presents a more abstract exploration of issues of identity and the Black experience. A rare portrait by photographer Adam Fuss commemorates art patrons Dr. James Cottrell and Joseph Lovett, who maintain vital friendships with artists whose work they collect.
The NYU Art Collection also boasts significant photography holdings. Brooklyn-born photographer Emil Cadoo, who eventually moved to Paris in hopes of escaping racism in the United States, combined images of human and botanical subjects with textured overlays that expressed the subject’s inner psyche. Photojournalist and Lower Manhattan resident Danny Lyon turned his camera toward large-scale demolition projects going on in the neighborhood in the late 1960s. Harry Callahan’s experimental prints represent an important juncture in the history of photography when the creative capacities of the camera were explored. Cindy Sherman assumes a variety of guises for her self-portraits, appropriating characters from well-known stories as well as art history. Like Sherman, drag performance artist and actor Ethyl Eichelberger donned the identities of influential historical figures, as seen in photos by Peter Hujar, a chronicler of downtown New York’s creative vanguard and queer communities during the 1970s and ’80s. Work by Japanese-born New York transplant Kenji Nakahashi reveals the abstract imagery in everyday settings, like city subway stations. Miwa Yanagi applies a more socially conscious eye to the world around her—her series Elevator Girls investigates gender norms for Japanese women in the late 1990s.
Even as COVID-19 forced the Grey to close its doors, staff continued the important work of caring for the collection and providing a home for art on NYU’s campus. These recent acquisitions and little-seen gems testify to the ongoing efforts to deepen a collection that augments the university’s educational commitment, inspires groundbreaking exhibitions and publications, and embraces the Grey’s role as Greenwich Village’s art museum.
Mostly New: Selections from the NYU Art Collection will be on view to June 28, 2023 at Grey Art Gallery, NYU, 100 Washington Square East, NYC.