2012 brought a new wave of changes in the art world in New York. Established artists delved into new directions in their work (some successful, some less so), museums amped up their retrospectives, Frieze Art Fair challenged the tradition of Armory Week, and interactive experiential art made a huge comeback. Some of our favorite exhibitions spanned from galleries, public art to museums, proving that 2012 was a well rounded success of awesome art to be experienced in the great city of New York.
1 Stray Light Gray
Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe’s Stray Light Gray at Marlborough Gallery blew minds by transforming the space into an epic catacomb of weird rooms. Visitors climbed through a hole in the employee bathroom into a series of odd scenes, like a 1970s family bathroom, an abandoned OTB parlor, a nail salon, bodega, and finally into a gorgeous wood and crystal library packed with rare books and taxidermy birds -- before being spit out into the lobby of the Chelsea Arts Tower.
Ann Hamilton, Event of the Thread; courtesy Park Avenue Armory.
2 Event of the Thread
Ann Hamilton’s takeover of the sprawling Park Avenue Armory brings together reading aloud, homing pigeons, and forty-two usable two-person swings attached to a wave of white fabric that bisects the drill hall. The beautiful participatory piece relies upon visitors to swing and move pulleys that transform the hanging fabric into an elegant billowing wave, while readings of Aristotle and Darwin are projected by two live readers stationed at the hall’s entrance.
London’s most reputable art fair invaded New York, causing a rivalry with Armory Week in March (and subsequently coaxing NADA and Pulse to join the new May time slot). Set on the enchanted isle of Randall’s Island complete with chartered boat, the fair made a splash with its first edition, attracting premier galleries, tons of visitors, and a new way to approach the art fair.
4 Christian Marclay, The Clock at Lincoln Center
First seen at Paula Cooper in early 2011, Christian Marclay’s The Clock had a constant line of art nerds waiting in the freezing Chelsea cold in order to spend some time with the real-time film. Its comeback at Lincoln Center this summer was just as popular. The twenty-four-hour cinema collage compiles snippets from films throughout the ages, which coincide with the actual time -- with breakfast scenes shown at 9 am, nightclub shots at night, and quitting time at five (which New Yorkers could only wish for).
5 JR hits New York
TED Prize winner JR’s building-sized portraits became famous with his São Paulo project in the favelas. This year New York got its very own JR interventions with Inside Out, honoring the Lakota tribe of Native Americans with grandiose wheat pastes popping up in neighborhoods all over New York.
6 Kiki Smith Chorus by Art Production Fund
A dusty vacant lot on 8th Avenue in Midtown was transformed this summer into a museum quality exhibition inspired by nostalgia. A departure from her plaster and metal cast sculptures, Smith delved into the beauty of traditional hand blown cathedral glass to bring the once razzle-dazzle glamour of the era back to life, with Josephine Baker as its central star.
Cindy Sherman, Installation view; Courtesy Museum of Modern Art.
7 Cindy Sherman at Museum of Modern Art
The original chameleon, Cindy Sherman’s long and illustrious career of transforming herself from character to character was celebrated with an extensive survey of thirty-five years of work in MoMA’s special exhibitions space. Through the chronology, visitors can see how Sherman pushed the limits of photography before the days of Photoshop, effectively turning it on its ear with little more than make up and costumes.
8 Mickalene Thomas How to Organize a Room Around a Striking Piece of Art at Lehmann Maupin
Known for her sparkly portraits of strong black women, the artist made a giant leap forward into the next facet of her oeuvre with her show at both Chelsea and LES outposts of Lehmann Maupin. Inspired by her residency at Monet’s house in Giverny, Thomas’ new body of work focuses on interiors, of both Monet’s home and of her late mother’s home, Sandra, which inspired the mismatched furniture and paneling installation at the Chelsea location. Both the Monet paintings and the installations may be a break from her signature portraiture, but they still emanate Thomas in every stroke and rhinestone.
9 Andrew Ohanesian The House Party at The Boiler
Leave it to The Boiler to turn normal life into an epic art installation. The House Party reconstructed a suburban home into the middle of the warehouse-like gallery. Visitors were then invited to hang out in the “living room” or kitchen…and then party. And party they did, for weeks and weeks, quickly trashing the joint and leaving it an installation akin to the party scene in a John Hughes movie.
Dough Wheeler, SA MI 75 DZ NY 12; Courtesy David Zwirner
10 Doug Wheeler SA MI 75 DZ NY 12 at David Zwirner
Some described Doug Wheeler’s futuristic SA MI 75 DZ NY 12 as like walking on a cloud, but the disorienting piece was more like being trapped INSIDE a cloud. Gingerly walking in white fabric booties, visitors reached in vain for the edge of the glowing divine white light installation, unsure if they would run smack into a wall, or walk endlessly into the abyss. Either way, they forgot they were in a gallery in Chelsea for just a moment.