Looking Back 2018: the New York Art World’s Year in Openings and Re-openings, Returns and Departures

We said goodbye to Cecil Taylor, Sam Miller, Takehisa Kosugi and many others. New York also welcomed the return of two prominent non-profit institutions

My art encounters in 2018 began starkly with a snow-blanketed Survival Research Laboratories performance on West 25th Street shortly after the new year. Seemingly unauthorized (though appended to the opening of a major Chelsea exhibition), its old-school mechanistic intensity and fundamental aimlessness rung in my mind for months to come. Bookending it was a poetic – dare I say elegant – street performance (also opening an exhibition) by Georgia Sagri that couldn't be more opposing in materials. Her underwear and clothing unpacked and packed from a rolling suitcase, ending violently as Sagri was cuffed, narrowly avoiding arrest, for purportedly threatening and crazy behaviour on Hester Street. Klara Liden's impressive one-take video installation, an emphatic and comic tour of stuttering pratfalls around Wall Street downtown, tapped this same vein of bleak comic rupture of a city hovering in now-perpetual lockdown. 

Gift of Lawrence Baca, 2015. Courtesy: National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C.

Gift of Lawrence Baca, 2015. Courtesy: National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C.

In Washington, DC, the National Museum of the American Indian opened Americans, a memorial to misunderstanding that slyly apes trade show decor to indexically house the goods, advertising and iconography that has defined Indigenous representation in the US commercial sphere. 

Shows by Yve Laris Cohen, Adrian Piper, Felix Bernstein & Gabe Rubin, Sarah Michelson, Allen Ruppersberg, Trisha Baga, Morag Keil, Zoe Leonard, Simone Leigh, Seth Price, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Charlemagne Palestine, Caleb Considine, Ann Wilson, Tony Conrad, DANCENOISE, Jutta Koether, Jean-Luc Godard, Louise Lawler, Michel Auder, Laura Ortman, Richard Hawkins, Jill Magid, Bruce Nauman, Kay WalkingStick, David Wojnarowicz, Heji Shin, Annette Peacock and more. 

The successful re-openings of New York necessities White Columns and PS122, newly christened Performance Space New York.

Eiko and Koma, 'A Memorial and Celebration of the Life of Sam Miller (1952-2018)', Danspace Project, 2018. Courtesy: Danspace Project; photograph: Ian Douglas

Eiko and Koma, 'A Memorial and Celebration of the Life of Sam Miller (1952-2018)', Danspace Project, 2018. Courtesy: Danspace Project; photograph: Ian Douglas

Passings this year: Takehisa Kosugi, Cecil Taylor (I was so deeply grateful to be able to celebrate each of them in their last years with retrospectives at the Whitney Museum), Ntozake Shange, Chris Mann, Glenn Branca and two heroes who signalled immeasurably how to ‘work’ in the arts as tectonic field-builders: Irving Sandler, who co-founded Artists Space in 1972 and remained fundamental to its and many other organizations' structures, and Sam Miller, who has done more than nearly anyone to articulate contemporary dance and its systems of visibility and support. A packed daylong memorial celebration last spring at Danspace Project attested to Miller’s selfless, almost cryptically secretive channels of influence.

Main image: 'Open Plan: Cecil Taylor', 2016, installation view, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Courtesy: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; photograph: Bill Orcutt

Jay Sanders is the Director of Artists Space in New York, USA.

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Janiva Ellis, Catchphrase Coping Mechanism, 2019, oil on linen, 2.2 x 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Joerg Lohse

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