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If I had to bet on it, I’d guess that the most commonly cited text by Walter Benjamin is his 1936 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” But more dogged devotees of the 20th-century cultural critic would no doubt direct you to The Arcades Project, the published version of an unfinished work that Benjamin left behind when he died prematurely in 1940. The sprawling collection of writings grapples with capitalism and modernity, viewed through the lens of Paris’s shopping arcades.
Reading the 1,000-plus-page book (in English translation) presents its own challenge; the Jewish Museum has given itself a different one in mounting an art exhibition that’s meant to reflect the text in both content and form. The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin will be appropriately multifaceted, with artworks “representing the subjects of each of the book’s thirty-six chapters,” architectural models, appropriated texts, and materials from Benjamin’s archive in Berlin. More than three dozen artists are included, among them Walead Beshty, Andrea Bowers, Adam Pendleton, Martín Ramírez, and Taryn Simon. Benjamin was an exceptionally prescient thinker and writer, and I’m eager to see how the curators translate his vision into an exhibition.
When: Opens Friday, March 17
Where: Jewish Museum (1109 Fifth Ave, Upper East Side, Manhattan)
More info here.
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