From the opening of Prospect.2 to NOMA's centennial, 2011 was a good year for art in New Orleans. And not just for the well-established people and places, either. While the traditional museums and galleries put on plenty of great shows, we also saw lots of good stuff from the merging scene on St. Claude, and even some feel-good street art on Magazine.
With nighttime events like the Ogden's After Hours, NOMA's Where Y'Art, and art walks on St. Claude and Julia, 2011 saw more and more people around the city getting out and enjoying the New Orleans' vibrant arts culture. We saw the cool kids from downtown crowd flock into the Great Hall at NOMA for Swoon's "Thalassa," and we saw sophisticates trekking to the Bywater to check out Prospect.2. Like our food and our music, art in New Orleans brings people together and always gets folks talking. We here at NoDef offer a nod to our 11 favorite events of 2011 and another 12 selections we're looking out for in 2012.
Best Art Exhibits of 2011
1. Swoon, "Thalassa."
When Swoon's goddess of the sea reigned down from the Great Hall of NOMA, not all of the old guard patrons were pleased. Swoon, a Brooklyn-based street artist, used cut-paper linoleum prints and salvaged materials to create the installation, and she continues to prove that the world of street art and the world of museums and galleries are not mutually exclusive. Since appearing at NOMA in June, "Thalassa" also popped up on the streets of London. Despite a few rumblings, this exhibition marks a sea-change in the museum's approach to contemporary art, a transition primarily credited to curator of modern and contemporary Miranda Lash, who joined NOMA in 2008.
2. Swoon and The New Orleans Airlift, "The Music Box: A Shantytown Sound Laboratory"
With "Thalassa," Swoon raised awareness of another project in New Orleans, her collaboration with the New Orleans Airlift, a downtown art collective co-directed by Delaney Martin and Rusty Lazer. The long-term plan is a musical house in the Bywater, but the first step was The Music Box, a fantastical village of shacks and structures outfitted with sound devices. Artists and musicians came from around the world to work on the Music Box, and the resulting performances—conducted by Mr. Quintron—garnered attention from the Huffington Post, the New York Times, and hard-partying rock star Andrew WK.
Despite a number of interesting and innovative exhibitions, there's been surprisingly little buzz around town over Prospect.2, the city-wide international contemporary art biennial. When NoDef talked to Prospect founder, director, and curator Dan Cameron back in July, he believed that P.2 could become a staple of New Orleans' cultural calendar, comparing the biennial to Jazz Fest. However, with a new artistic director from (gasp!) Los Angeles announced for Prospect.3, not to mention financial doubts still lingering from Prospect.1, the future of Prospect New Orleans is hazy at best, which is all the more reason to enjoy the adventure of trekking across the city from venue to venue and taking in the exhibitions of P.2 while you can.
4. NOMA 100
Celebrating 100 years in 2011, the New Orleans Museum of Art has long been the grande dame of the New Orleans art world, but NOMA's centennial exhibition of recent acquisitions provides proof that the old gal still has plenty of life left in her. In addition to worldly treasures ranging from ancient Egyptian and pre-Columbian artifacts, the museum also broadens the scope of its contemporary holdings, including NOMA's first Frank Stella painting and Keith Sonnier's "Fluorescent Room" installation, which was a gift of the artist. The museum's sculpture garden also added five new pieces, cementing its reputation as one the city's best spots for free art.
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