The Best Of The Best At The Brooklyn Museum


The Sneaker show may be getting all the hype as *the* summer exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, but remember: this is a big place! In addition to an impressive, usually pretty empty-of-tourists permanent collection of works from ancient Egypt to 21st-century Brooklyn (they call these “Long-Term Installations”, and they are filled with strange and beautiful things), the museum is also hosting a number of other exhibitions this summer-into-early-fall, all of which combined are more than worth a trip out there on the 2/3 train. I did my best to cover it all last weekend, and found a lot of crowd-pleasing fun, a couple of big surprises, and a stunningly sad and moving piece just to keep things real. Here are my thoughts on it all…


Patrick McNeil + Patrick Miller = FAILE

The biggest must-see here, especially if you’re coming with kids in tow, are the amazing installations by Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, the Brooklyn-based duo who go by the name of FAILE. If you pay attention to street art you know these guys already, as they been wheatpasting around town, often with cohort BAST, for many years, but Savage/Sacred Minds, as their show is called, is definitely their most ambitious project yet. Both of the primary pieces are instantly engaging and reward close attention by the viewer. There’s the FAILE/BAST collab Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, which made an appearance on the Lower East Side in 2010 but has been remade and expanded here to include more of their playable, hacked video games and pinball machines, a pair of foosball tables, the entirety on the two big rooms plastered in clever, cartoony, often biting posters. And there’s FAILE’s full-scale Temple, complete with prayer wheels and solemn iconography, all devoted the dangers of rampant consumerism and over-development. Through October 4.



KAWS At The Brooklyn Museum

Actually that’s not true. The literally BIGGEST must-see piece greets you in the museum lobby, an enormous wooden statue by KAWS called Walk Along the Way, featuring two of his most discouraged-looking Companion characters lurching from some sad disaster. The scale of this piece is tremendous. Through December 6.


Jean-Michel Basquiat’s The Unknown Notebooks

I also finally got to see Jean-Michel Basquiat’s The Unknown Notebooks, which is just as it sounds: 160 pages of doodles, poem fragments, sketches, and “personal observations” that were recently discovered among the hundreds of such pads and books he left behind when he died in 1988. These are interesting, but I hate to say that the bigger draw here are the drawings and paintings from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection that they’ve trotted out once again to complement the exhibition. No matter: it’s always a pleasure to look at some Basquiat. Through August 23.



Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases

Finally, there’s a potent piece in the museum’s Elizabeth A Sackler Center for Feminist Art (which often has excellent work on display), the South African artist Zanele Muholi’s Faces and Phases. The structure is simple: stark, lovely, black-and-white photographs of lesbian and transgender folks from her community, and then pairs them with first-hand accounts, hand-written on a giant wall in the gallery, of the physical attacks and emotional abuse they’ve all faced. Just devastating. Through November 1. More info here.

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