As far as programming, vision, mission, and ambition are concerned, MOMA must reconnect with its wildcat roots and remember it was created to take on the whole world. It’s time to get beyond its orderly version of postwar art: namely that abstraction was essentially invented by a bunch of white guys in the Cedar bar, pop art was primarily an American phenomenon, women didn’t become good artists until after 1970, and conceptualism was a hiccup.
MOMA’s commitment to rethinking postwar art feels balky at best, averse at worst. Yet it must wholeheartedly and creatively re-examine and reimagine the art of the last 50 years—although it’s hard to envision this without a single designated “project gallery” in the new building. Things are so far off at MOMA that Tate director Nicholas Serota recently accused it of suffering a “loss of nerve.”
The situation isn’t hopeless. The current reinstallation of contemporary art is excellent. “Safe,” the design show, is feisty and sharp; the gigantic Lee Friedlander survey was great, although the Thomas Demand retrospective was only OK because too much Demand got monotonous. The Elizabeth Murray survey was terrific. Now MOMA needs to mount at least one retrospective of a living woman artist every year for the next 15 years.
The point is MOMA needs to stop confirming and start experimenting.