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"Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina" Exhibition

Art of the City

In 2019, The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) opened its first major exhibition of contemporary art: Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina, presented by The Helis Foundation.


The Crescent City’s endurance and resilience have given rise to a thriving contemporary art scene. The Louisiana Major Works 1984 exhibition at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition provides a rough starting point for a renewed cultural consciousness that gained further impetus after Hurricane Katrina and continues to this day.


In Art of the City, New Orleans interdisciplinary artist, curator and educator Jan Gilbert—along with THNOC President and Chief Executive Officer Priscilla Lawrence as assisting curator—assembles the diverse perspectives of artists reacting during three decades of strife and progress in the layered city that fueled their inspiration.


“The fecund and tumultuous climate of this period in the life of this city steeps artists and their visions,” said Gilbert. “For THNOC to showcase this recent explosion of the New Orleans contemporary art culture, here at this tricentennial moment, is to recognize its importance as history in the making and is a significant commitment to the future of art in this city.”


The exhibition, made possible by a significant gift to THNOC from The Helis Foundation, includes a robust programming schedule and components that live outside the gallery walls, some of which were introduced early in 2018. Admission to the exhibition and all programming is free.


“The Helis Foundation is proud to support this important exhibition celebrating New Orleans’s finest contemporary artists responding to our rich cultural history,” said David Kerstein, president of The Helis Foundation. “THNOC is uniquely positioned to tell this story within the context of 300 years of significant artistic achievements highlighted in its collection.”


Art of the City features the work of more than 75 artists, both homegrown visionaries and devoted visitors, in the newly constructed Tricentennial Wing of the campus. It includes established masters like Krista Jurisich, Douglas Bourgeois and Luis Cruz Azaceta; familiar names like Candy Chang and Gina Phillips; and rising stars like Zarouhie Abdalian, Brandan Odums and Rontherin Ratliff.


“In few cities do the historic and the modern commingle more naturally than in New Orleans—this harmony guided us as we both renovated the historic Seignouret-Brulatour Building and added to it with the new construction,” said Lawrence. “We hope Art of the City and its arresting assembly of contemporary art brings the citywide conversation about past and present to the fore.”


The exhibition is running for six months at THNOC’s new, $38 million exhibition center at 520 Royal St., which opened in April 2019. The center was made possible in part through generous donations from the institution’s local, national and international supporters.

Recitations (…pour le triomphe de la liberté et de l’égalité…)

Recitations (…pour le triomphe de la liberté et de l’égalité…), a contemporary art installation by Zarouhie Abdalian, was presented between January and June 2018. The work, which positioned ringing brass bells around the French Quarter, is the first program offered in conjunction with THNOC’s forthcoming exhibition Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina, presented by The Helis Foundation.


In Abdalian’s work, five bells ring together from rooftops on Toulouse, Royal, St. Louis, and Chartres streets, each making a unique statement. Though bells have featured prominently in the French Quarter’s soundscape for nearly three hundred years, the cadences in Recitations (…pour le triomphe de la liberté et de l’égalité…) differ in character from the tolls announced by the church, the school, or the factory, and thereby propose a reimagined relationship between the bells and those they hail.


Abdalian is a New Orleans native and NOCCA alumna who has gone on to exhibit her work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the 2017 Whitney Biennal, and Prospect.3. Recitations (…pour le triomphe de la liberté et de l’égalité…) lasts seven minutes.

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