IF YOU’RE AN ART ENTHUSIAST LOOKING TO DELVE INTO THE NEWEST EXHIBITIONS IN TOWN, NYU ABU DHABI ART GALLERY IS PLAYING HOST TO AN INCREDIBLE BODY OF WORK STRAIGHT OUT OF NEW YORK CITY.

Opening to the public on October 4, this exhibition is bringing to Abu Dhabi a major collection of historical artworks organised by the Grey Art Gallery, New York University’s fine art museum in New York City. The work on display examines the New York art scene between the peak of Abstract Expressionism in the early 1950s and the rise of Pop Art and Minimalism in the early 1960s. During this time, artists helped expand the definition of what constituted downtown Manhattan. Establishing cooperative and artist-run galleries that triggered new aesthetic directions, they also extended eastward the parameters of what was considered “downtown,” toward the tenements and industrial buildings of Lower Manhattan. These spaces would help shape the artworks they created and exhibited.

Inventing Downtown is the first major museum exhibition to survey these vital years from the vantage point of fourteen key artist-run galleries. Featuring over 200 paintings, sculptures, installations, drawings, photographs, and films, the show reveals a scene that was much more diverse than has previously been acknowledged, and will include works by over 50 artists who pursued abstraction and figuration alongside those who ventured into installation and performance art. The artists range from the well-known (Yayoi Kusama, Alex Katz, Mark di Suvero, Claes Oldenburg, and Yoko Ono) to the lesser-known (Ed Clark, Emilio Cruz, Lois Dodd, Rosalyn Drexler, Sally Hazelet Drummond, Jean Follett, Lester Johnson, Boris Lurie, and Aldo Tambellini).

Maya Allison, Founding Director and Chief Curator of the NYUAD Art Gallery, said: “Our coming year’s exhibitions reinforce our focus these inaugural years, on the themes that shape our understanding of where we are: culture, environment, and history, as they relate specifically to the UAE and Saadiyat Island.” For Inventing Downtown, Maya said: “This further develops the idea of artistic community that drives our current show, But We Cannot See Them. Where But We Cannot See Them examines a homegrown UAE avant-garde community of artists, Inventing Downtown explores a similar impulse by artists to band together to enable artistic innovation and community, but in the very different circumstances of the New York art scene of the 1950s and 60s. It continues our reflections on the vision for the UAE, and Saadiyat, as a center of cultural and knowledge production,” she added.

Open from October 4 to January 13 at the NYUAD Art Gallery, Inventing Downtown is curated by Melissa Rachleff, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Art and Art Professions at NYU’s Steinhardt School.


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