Artists have been exploring the relationship between art and governmental power for years, and now visitors to The Met Breuer can see 70 works that tackle how power and suspicion tend to go hand-in-hand.
“Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy,” open now, runs through Jan. 6 and showcases paintings, drawings, photography and installations that explore how facts are presented to the public.
The exhibit has been about six years in the making, with Doug Eklund, the curator in the Met’s Department of Photographs, and Ian Alteveer, the curator in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, working together on the project. Eklund previously collaborated with artist Mike Kelley for “Everything is Connected”; Alteveer came aboard after Kelley died in 2012.
“Doug read an interview that Mike gave in 1991 in where he says, ‘Why hasn’t anyone ever done a project about art and conspiracy?’” Alteveer said. “There’s all of these artists who are interested in this, but no one’s ever really looked into it.”
The exhibit include paintings by Jenny Holzer of unclassified documents from George W. Bush’s presidential administration, as well as a wall installation by Sarah Charlesworth of international newspaper front pages that feature a photo of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro when he was kidnapped in 1978. All of the text was removed from the newspaper pages, only showing the photo.
“That work is an amazing kind of comment from all the way back to the 1970s about the ways in which media circulates images, but also puts them in balance with other images as a way to maintain a certain power,” Alteveer said about Charlesworth’s work. “It’s fascinating to see that, that hostage portrait of Aldo Moro as it travels around the world on these various front pages and who makes it big and who makes it small. It’s very insightful work.”
The exhibit is opening at just the right time, according to Max Hollein, the director of The Met.
“We’re living in a moment of ‘fake news.’ We feel that these are very unusual times, and we hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Hollein said. “But what if there is no end to the tunnel? It’s a timely exhibition and a complex subject. It presents revelatory, powerful, haunting and hallucinatory artwork of power and how it affects our lives.”