“Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s”at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

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Jeff Koons, New! New Too!, 1983, lithograph billboard mounted on cotton, 123 × 272 inches (312.4 × 690.9 cm) © Jeff Koons.

WASHINGTON DC—The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will open “Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s” Feb. 14–May 13, an expansive exhibition exploring the pivotal moments in the 1980s when artwork became a commodity and the artist, a brand.

Razor-sharp, witty, satirical and deeply subversive, the nearly 150 works in “Brand New” examine the origins and rise of a new generation of artists in New York City who blurred the lines between art, entertainment and commerce, a shift that continues to define contemporary art today.

Organized by Gianni Jetzer, the Hirshhorn’s curator-at-large, “Brand New” presents a fresh and focused history of the decade, bringing rarely displayed works from U.S. and European collections, together for the first time since the ’80s.

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Guerrilla Girls, These Galleries show no more than 10% women artists or none at all., 1984-85. Offset lithograph; each 11 x 17 in (27.94 x 43.18 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, Smithsonian Institution. Photo by Cathy Carver

The nearly 70 artists feature some of today’s most renowned figures, as well as underrecognized names from the period: Ashley Bickerton, Sarah Charlesworth, Jessica Diamond, Peter Halley, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Joel Otterson, Richard Prince, Erika Rothenberg, Haim Steinbach, Meyer Vaisman and Julia Wachtel, as well as artist groups and collectives ACT UP Gran Fury, The Offices, General Idea, John Dogg, Fashion Moda and Guerrilla Girls, among others.

Three major installations will be shown for the first time in 30 years, including seminal works by Gretchen Bender, Barbara Bloom and Krzysztof Wodiczko.  

“The Hirshhorn is proud to present this groundbreaking exhibition, which explores a major shift in contemporary expression that set the stage for so many of today’s most celebrated artists,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “The Hirshhorn is committed to exploring key moments in 20th century art, and ‘Brand New’ offers fascinating new insights into this pivotal decade and the corresponding rise of some of the biggest names today.”

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Ken Lum. Untitled Sculpture, 1982. Couches, side tables, table lamps. Installation view Artists’ space. Photo by Neue Galerie Graz, Graz, Austria

“Brand New” introduces an alternative view of the ’80s, tracing how a pioneering group of young artists in New York appropriated the tools and psychology of the decade’s pervasive commercial culture, especially advertising, branding and manufactured objects. Fueled by radical changes in politics, the economy and technology, they exploited the growing culture of consumerism to redefine art’s position within it.

“In a reaction to the success of Neo-Expressionism and its nostalgia of figurative painting, a new group of artists reclaimed the language of commerce, and what began as satire quickly grew to become a defining moment in contemporary art,” Jetzer said. “This phenomenon of artist as a brand identity, and the art object as commodity, has not yet been examined at this scale, and I am excited to explore the tremendous impact of these pioneering individuals now at a time that, in many ways, mirrors the unique trends of that decade.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalog featuring in-depth essays from Patrick Jaojoco, Jetzer, Bob Nickas and Leah Pires (published by Rizzoli, 192 pp.).

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Barbara Kruger, Untitled (I shop therefore I am), 1987. Photographic silkscreen on vinyl; 111 5/8 in x 113 1/4 in x 2 1/2 in (283.53 cm x 287.65 cm x 6.35 cm). Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland. © Barbara Kruger. Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York. Photo: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art.com

Artists featured in “Brand New” include: ACT UP Gran Fury, Charlie Ahearn, John Ahearn, John Armleder, Alan Belcher, Gretchen Bender, Ashley Bickerton, Mike Bidlo, Dana Birnbaum, Barbara Bloom, Jennifer Bolande, Sarah Charlesworth, Clegg & Guttmann (Michael Clegg and Yair Martin Guttmann), Jessica Diamond, Jane Dickson, John Dogg (Richard Prince and Colin DeLand), Stefan Eins, R.M. Fischer, General Idea (AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal), Robert Gober, Robert Goldman, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Guerrilla Girls, Peter Halley, Jenny Holzer, Tishan Hsu, Christof Kohlhofer, Jeff Koons, Larry Johnson, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Annette Lemieux, Sherrie Levine, Ken Lum, Frank Majore, MICA-TV (Michael Owen and Carole Ann Klonarides), Allan McCollum, Dick Miller, Donald Moffett, Matt Mullican, Peter Nagy, The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince & Winters (Peter Fend, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Jenny Holzer, Peter Nadin, Richard Prince and Robin Winters), Tom Otterness, Joel Otterson, Adrian Piper, Richard Prince, David Robbins, Walter Robinson, Ronell Productions (R.M. Fischer and Elliot Wertheim), Martha Rosler, Erika Rothenberg, Christy Rupp, Cindy Sherman, Terri Slotkin, Michael Smith, Mark Stahl, Haim Steinbach, Philip Taaffe, Meyer Vaisman, Joan Wallace, Julia Wachtel, Andy Warhol, Tom Warren, James Welling, David Wojnarowicz, B. Wurtz, Krzysztof Wodiczko.

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Donald Moffett, He Kills Me, 1987. Offset lithograph; 23.5 x 37.5 in (59.7 x 69.9 cm. International Center of Photography,Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee, 2000. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen. © Donald Moffett
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