Museums in New York attract tourists from every international locale, and thus function as vital cultural conduits. Large cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and the Guggenheim house millions of people inside their air-conditioned and art-laden buildings each year. The museums become tourist stops, an opportunity to take an “artsy” pictures. The seemingly universal urge to share one’s life online creates an unusual museum environment in which viewers jostle for the best picture positions and crowd up close to the most picture-worthy works. To avoid this commotion, I either visit large museums at off-hours or frequent smaller galleries that have equally compelling exhibitions, such as the Neue Gallery.
Situated on 86th street, the Neue Gallery houses revolutionary works by modern German and Russian artists. Founded by the Estee Lauder Family, the Gallery is home to the infamous Woman in Gold, which is the galvanizing Gustav Klimt portrait of Adele Block-Boucher. While an informative exhibit accompanies the portrait of Adele, I gravitated towards the small exhibition “Russian Modernism: Cross-Currents of German and Russian Art, 1907-1917” situated in the upper galleries. Less trafficked, the exhibit on German and Russian Modernism is relevant as it is the first investigation on the artistic interchanges between these two regions and styles shown publicly.
Refreshingly, the exhibit affords each viewer the necessary space to comprehend the how directly social-political contexts influence artistic production. Clearly delineated between German and Russian artists, city scenes, landscapes, and portraiture, the exhibit applauds the work of lesser-known artists, while offering homage to work by popular contemporaries such as: Kandinsky and Maholy-Nagy. The works shown are reflective of their current contexts as well as projections as to how the future will appear. Bold linear planes intersect with vibrant swatches of color, offering commentary on the backlashes of industrialization and revolution. Manipulating the human form and natural landscape, the canvases are deeply emotional.