Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s
It’s the 80s as you’ve never seen it before. Explore the iconic decade when artwork became a commodity and the artist, a brand. Razor-sharp, witty, satirical and deeply subversive, these nearly 150 works examine the origins and rise of a new generation of artists in 1980s New York who blurred the lines between art, entertainment and commerce, a shift that continues to define contemporary art today.
This expansive exhibition presents a fresh and focused history of the decade, bringing rarely displayed works from U.S. and European collections together for the first time since the ’80s. The 68 artists—including 25 women— feature some of today’s most influential figures: Ashley Bickerton, Jessica Diamond, Peter Halley, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Joel Otterson, Richard Prince, Erika Rothenberg, Sarah Charlesworth, Haim Steinbach, Meyer Vaisman and Julia Wachtel, as well as artist collectives and projects such as ACT UP Gran Fury, The Offices, General Idea, Fashion Moda and Guerrilla Girls. Three major installations will be recreated for the first time in 30 years, including seminal works by Gretchen Bender, Barbara Bloom and Krzysztof Wodiczko.
Thirty years ago, seismic shifts in politics, economics and technology brought about a golden era of contemporary art in the United States, particularly in New York City, with its heady Wall Street wealth and gritty streets.
Brand New offers a fascinating alternative history of art in the 1980s by tracing how a pioneering group of young downtown artists appropriated the tools and psychology of growing consumer culture—advertising, logos, products, even cable TV—to change the landscape of the art world. Manufactured objects, such as vacuum cleaners and clocks, became vessels with complex meanings. Advertising and television emerged as rich new mediums for expression, and artworks themselves became branded products. Like today’s celebrity influencers, artists crafted branded personas to both market themselves and as a form of creative expression.
Year by year, Brand New parallels major artistic developments with the corresponding events that shaped the ’80s, such as the introduction of MTV, Reaganomics, financial crisis, gentrification, and height of the AIDS crisis. It also documents new collaborations taking place during this period, when artists came together to form their own complex commercial entities. These artist-run consultancies, aesthetic “service providers,” and pop-up storefronts redefined how art could be made, and sold.
Curated by Gianni Jetzer, curator-at-large
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