Ways to Beat the Heat at NOMA this summer

Summers are long in New Orleans, and patience can be short. When the heat is on, make your way to the New Orleans Museum of Art where there’s stimulation to be found in galleries that are cool, both literally and figuratively. Our new exhibitions are bound to wow. Our events calendar is packed with programs that appeal to all interests and ages. From artist and curator lectures and original music and dance performances, to an eclectic array of movie screenings and new or familiar sculptures on the shady grounds of the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, there’s no shortage of discoveries. Listed here are suggestions from NOMA staff on ways to keep your mind humming in the weeks ahead along with the air conditioners.


Recommended by Contemporary Art Curator Katie Pfohl and Mellon Curatorial Fellow Allison Young 

Opening June 28 and on view through October 13, Bodies of Knowledge brings together eleven international contemporary artists to reflect on the role that language plays in archiving and asserting our cultural identities. Working with materials that range from books and silent film to ink, ashes and musical scores, ten artists propose language as a living and ever-evolving document that can counter more staid and static ways of representing our collective pasts.

There are many interactive components to Bodies of Knowledge, allowing museum vistors to connect with the installations in ways atypical from a traditional exhibition, including:


Edward Spots, Photography by Lois Greenfield © Lois Greenfield

On Friday, June 28, at 5 pm, artistic director Edward Spots will lead an ensemble of youth dancers from Dancing Grounds in an original performance that serves as the symbolic opening of Bodies of Knowledge. Titled Black Magic, the work unfolds in five distinct dance movements: Black Suffering, Black Anger, Black Beauty, Black Love, and Black Joy. This work will explore varying aspects of black cultural identity through dance and the body. Investigating a range of topics from suffering, to beauty, to joy, this original work will depict joy as a form of resistance to dominant depictions of the black experience, and consider what is often forgotten and omitted from prevalent representations of black life.

Visitors should assemble outdoors at the entrance to NOMA before 5 pm. The audience will follow the dancers into the Great Hall after the first act. 


Mahmoud Chouki in New Orleans, 2019, Photography by Marion Hill © Marion Hill

Morrocan-born, New Orleans-based musician Mahmoud Choukiwill create a new musical composition and series of site-specific performances for Bodies of Knowledge. Titled Safar (Arabic for “to travel”), Chouki will collaborate with musicians of many cultural traditions, creating improvisational works that will explore how music can speak across cultural divides to create new forms of dialogue between East and West.

Chouki will join fellow musicians in the Safar series on the following dates:

Friday Nights at NOMA performances: June 28,  5:30 pm – Opening Night Performance with Amigos de Samba  •  July 19,  5:30 pm – Oscar Rossignoli • August 23, 5:30 pm – Cyrille Aimee and Ricardo Pascal  •  September 13, 5:30 pm – Georgi Petrov and Sam Dickie

Wednesday Improvisational Concerts:  July 17, 3 pm – Steve Lands  •  August 14, 3 pm – Hellen Gillet  •  September 11, 3 pm – Jesse Autumn  •  October 9, 3 pm – Martin Masakowski

Final Concert in Great Hall of original-piece musical ensemble: Sunday, October 13, 6 – 8 pm


Wafaa Bilal, 168:01, 2016–present, Site-specific installation, Dimensions variable, Image courtesy of the artist, Photograph by John Dean © Wafaa Bilal

Wafaa Bilal’s interactive installation 168:01 commemorates the destruction of more than 70,000 books in the libraries of Baghdad during the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. Museum visitors are invited to fill the shelves of an austere white library filled with blank books in exchange for donated books that will be shipped to the College of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad at the closing of the exhibition. The work’s title references a thirteenth-century legend, in which an invading Mongol army set fire to the libraries of Baghdad, throwing the books of the Bayt al-Hikma—the House of Wisdom—into the Tigris River, where their pages bled ink for seven days, or 168 hours.

To donate a book, go to the Museum Shop and purchase one of the books marked with a special bookmark. Bring your purchased book back to the gallery hosting 168:01, place it on the shelf, and take one of the blank white books in exchange. The keepsake book is intended to serve as a reminder that not everyone is granted the same access to education. As donated books accumulate, the shelves will be imbued with color and a spirit of resilience. 


Recommended by Kelsey Offen, Visitor Engagement and Administrative Coordinator

Scene from the 1980 movie Fame.

An Artist’s Choice Movie Series will take place on select Saturdays throughout the run of Bodies of Knowledge, with an eclectic mix of films chosen by a few of the represented artists that reflect their inspirations, interests, and ideals. The artists will be on site to introduce the following films:

  • Saturday, June 29, 2 pm: Adriana Corral selects The Constant Gardener (2005 | Rated R | 2 hours, 8 minutes)
  • Saturday, July 13, 2 pm: Garrett Bradley selects Sidewalk Stories (1989 | Rated R | 1 hour, 37 minutes)
  • Saturday, August 17, 2 pm: Manon Bellet selects La Jetée (1962 | Not rated | 28 minutes)
  • Saturday, September 14, 2 pm: Mahmoud Chouki selects Whatever Lola Wants (2007 | Not rated | 1 hour, 55 minutes)
  • Saturday, October 5,  5 pm: Edward Spots selects Fame (1980 | Rated R |  2 hours, 14 minutes)

Read more about these movies and watch trailers for each at this link.


Scene from Shirin Neshat’s 2009 film Women Without Men.

Additionally, every Wednesday from July 3 to October 9, from 10 am to 1 pm (excluding July 17 and 31), three films by Iranian-American filmmaker Shirin Neshat—Turbulent, Rapture, and Fervor will be screened on loop. Neshat’s screenworks probe stereotypes of Islamic militancy and femininity. Two of her feature-length films will be shown on select dates:



Recommended by Chris Montero, Café NOMA culinary curator

A browned butter and peach tart will be among the dishes prepared in Café NOMA’s Artful Palate cooking demonstrations.

Chefs of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group will demonstrate their own culinary masterpieces at Café NOMA’s Artful Palate, the eighth annual summer cooking series featuring seven artfully inspired demonstrations at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

In conjunction with Bodies of Knowledge, the talented executive chefs and sous chefs of Café NOMA, Ralph’s on the Park, Red Fish Grill, Brennan’s, and Napoleon House will share their culinary vision inspired by the exhibition by honoring a special culinary mentor in their lives, a recipe that was passed to them from this instructor, and their interpretation of this dish.

Fridays at 6 pm

  • July 12: Classic French sauces with Chris Montero, Café NOMA culinary curator and Napoleon House executive chef
  • July 19: Spanish-style octopus with Knut Mjelde, Ralph’s on the Park sous chef
  • July 26: Lemon ricotta agnolotti with Kate Schwarzlose, Brennan’s sous chef
  • August 2: Crepes de Norton with Chris Fite, Café NOMA chef
  • August 9: Browned butter and peach tart with Kris Padalino, Brennan’s pastry chef
  • August 16: Beef goulash Chris Vazquez, Ralph Brennan Catering & Events executive chef
  • August 23: Shrimp and corn bisque with  Jonah Nissenbaum, Red Fish Grill executive sous chef


Recommended by Kelsi Brooks, Youth Programs Coordinator

NOMA will host a special Family Day with the theme “Keep It Cool” on Saturday, August 24, from 10 am to 4 pm with special activities for visitors of all ages, including hands-on art making activities, music, and tours for children and teenagers.


Recommended by Pamela Buckman, Sculpture Garden Manager

The new five-acre expansion of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden opened in mid-May to rave reception. See 27 new sculptures by artists working primarily in the 21st century. Take a cool respite inside the sculpture pavilion, site of four indoor works, or relax beneath one of the grand, moss-draped live oaks as you take in the view of the restored lagoons and native Louisiana plant beds. Learn more by way of an audio guide or join docent-led tour, offered on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays at noon (weather dependent), departing from the sculpture garden’s main entrance to the south of NOMA’s front steps (left if facing the building).

The Besthoff Sculpture Garden is free and open to the public seven days a week.


Recommended by David Johnson, Editor of Museum Publications 

Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828), George Washington, c. 1800, Oil on canvas, Gift of Francis Weis Pick in memory of her father, Mr. Samuel R. Weis, 56.15

NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden will be open for special holiday hours on July 4th from noon to 5 pm. Surround yourself with American art from across the centuries, ranging from pre-Columbian Native American works to modern paintings and sculpture by emerging 21st-century artists. A list of Ten Must-See Works by American Artists will lead you through multiple galleries.


Recommended by Ndubuisi Ezeluomba, François Billion Richardson Curator of African Art

Ejagham artist, Nigeria, Akwanshi, c. 16th Century, Stone, Museum purchase with Françoise Billion Richardson and Gordy Funds, 2019.11

Opening July 26 in the second-floor Stafford Focus Gallery, Ancestors in Stone  presents a newly acquired Akwanshi sculpture from the Cross River Region of Nigeria. Akwanshi (stones of dead ancestors) are carved to depict a human face and art scholars are still studying their symbolism and origin. Many Akwanshi are now threatened by vandalism and neglect. Read more about these mysterious works in a feature story by Ndubuisi Ezeluomba, NOMA’s François Billion Richardson Curator of African Art.


Recommended by Jane Wood, Visitor Engagement Manager

The Art & A/C promotion, sponsored by The Helis Foundation, returns for the entire month of August. If the temperature in New Orleans reaches 95 degrees, as verified by FOX8-TV meteorologist David Bernard, admission to NOMA is free the following day. Stay up to date by following NOMA’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.