Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton was sworn into his first term of office, Kate Moss and grunge-chic turned fashion on its ear, Harmony Korine was writing the screenplay that would become Kids, and the New Museum—which, in a major exhibition opening tonight, makes a compelling case for 1993 as the year that indelibly altered the New York art world, and by extension its satellite spheres of fashion, film, music, and youth culture—was still housed in a smallish loft space in the Astor building, a few blocks from its sleek Bowery berth today. “NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star,” on view February 13 to May 26, features 75 artists who were working in New York that year and offers a deep look back at the art scene of that particular time and place, not to mention the seismic cultural events and sociopolitical factors that shaped it.
Included in the show is Matthew Barney’s monumental Drawing Restraint 7, a film full of mythical creatures that served as an allegory of power and its perversions. It was Barney’s entry for the infamous 1993 Whitney Biennial, which has since become a lodestar—critically reviled at the time, it nevertheless brought to the fore unconventional new talents who have since made good on their promise, including Glenn Ligon and Sue Williams, both of whom are also represented in the show.
Next door, you’ll find Nari Ward’s Amazing Grace, installed in the New Museum’s Studio 231 space. Two decades ago, when the white cube galleries had yet to sprout in Chelsea, the art landscape revolved around more humble spaces in the East Village, Soho, and even far uptown in Harlem, where Ward famously rounded up 300 abandoned strollers in a derelict firehouse—a piece that, recreated here, reflects the race, class, and gentrification issues surrounding its conception.
In retrospect, we should’ve predicted the current coziness of fashion, celebrity, and art commingling in, say Karen Kilimnik’s stylish pop culture- and magazine-sourced images, or even in Marc Jacobs’s infamous grunge collection for Perry Ellis, which was featured in the music video for the song “Sugar Kane,” by Sonic Youth, a band that more than any other provided the soundtrack to this era—and whose eighth album title provides the subtitle of this exhibition.
Then again, everything’s clearer in hindsight.
“NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” runs from February 13 – May 26, 2013, at the New Museum, 235 Bowery, New York.