This spring, the Hirshhorn presents the ‘80s as you’ve never seen it before. Brand New is the largest museum exhibition to explore the collision of art and commerce in the 1980s, an iconic decade when artwork emerged as a product and the artist, a brand.
Razor-sharp, witty, satirical, and deeply subversive, these more than 150 works from 66 of the most influential artists of the decade reveal the fascinating ways art infiltrated the worlds of advertising and business, launching a revolution that has come to define contemporary art today.
Organized chronologically, Brand New features rarely seen paintings, sculpture and installations from the biggest names in art today, alongside their lesser-known counterparts, including Ashley Bickerton, Jessica Diamond, General Idea, Peter Halley, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Peter Nagy, Joel Otterson, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Haim Steinbach, Meyer Vaisman, and Julia Wachtel, among others. It also features key multimedia installations that recreated for the first time since the 80s, including seminal works by Barbara Bloom, Gretchen Bender, and Krzysztof Wodiczko.
Thirty years ago, seismic shifts in politics, economics and technology brought about a golden era of contemporary art in the United States, particularly in New York City, with its heady Wall Street wealth and gritty streets. During this time, artists became celebrities, brand names, and power brokers, selling themselves and their art as products, forming, in the process, the undisputed center of the contemporary art world.
Consumerism was quickly defining the decade, and the modern brand was driving social culture, led by major multinational companies like Pepsi, Nike, and CNN. It also saw the birth of major cultural forces that continue to shape our world today—MTV. Personal computing. Branding. New Wave. The AIDS epidemic. Reaganomics. Pop-ups. Madonna. Neon. Punk. Gentrification. Cable TV.
Many associate the art of the 1980s with large-scale painting or Neo-Expressionism, but Brand New suggests an alternative history. It looks instead at the key group of New York’s counterculture artists who appropriated the language of modern commerce—logos, advertising, products, even cable television—as a new and unprecedented medium for artistic creation. This radical approach to art making set them apart from artists who commanded the greatest market interest at the time, and by rethinking the connection between objects and concepts in the 1980s, they changed the landscape of the art world forever.
Curated by Gianni Jetzer, Curator-At-Large