The New Museum of Modern Art Opens on Monday, the critics early visits suggest we're in for a big shock of the new.This commentary by Marion Maneker is available to AMMpro subscribers. (The first month of AMMpro is free and subscribers are welcome to sign up for the first month and cancel before they are billed.) With a week still left to go before the public gets to see the newly renovated, expanded and re-conceived Museum of Modern Art in New York, the world’s pre-eminent reference point for what is viewed as Modern and Contemporary art, most of us have been learning about the new institution through a series of narratives, walk-throughs and critiques published in major newspapers and magazines. MoMA’s public relations team did their job well. Most of the accounts, pro or con, hit the same major themes and use the same signal set pieces to make the point of what is happening on West 53rd St. The museum’s ur-modern work, Picasso’s Desmoiselles is now displayed in a gallery across from works by two women artists that echo its themes and counter its force. To many, the diminution of the Desmoiselles is nothing more than a parlour trick. Facing off against a massive work by Faith Ringgold both inspired by and drawing from the Desmoiselles, one reviewer complained that “the Cubist works are upstaged and all but drained of impact.” One might wonder how a reviewer could be so willfully blind to the fact that the point of the juxtaposition is to blunt the previous impact of Picasso’s invocation of atavism and sexual aggression. But it takes a special kind of obtuse to splutter against the use of Ringgold to “problematize” Picasso, as the Wall Street Journal’s Eric Gibson does with no evident self-awareness, by claiming Ringgold’s inclusion is “nothing more than a naked play to the racial and gender politics of the moment.”
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