Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection at The Museum of Modern Art, March 19 – July 30, 2017

“Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection brings together works by more than a dozen artists, made in the past decade and recently acquired by The Museum of Modern Art. The artists that make up this intergenerational selection address current anxiety and unrest around the world and offer critical reflections on our present moment.

The exhibition considers the intertwining themes of social protest, the effect of history on the formation of identity, and how art juxtaposes fact and fiction. From Cairo to St. Petersburg, from The Hague to Recife, the artists in the exhibition observe and interpret acts of state violence and the resistance and activism they provoke. They reexamine historical moments, evoking images of the past and claiming their places within it. They take on contemporary struggles for power, intervening into debates about government surveillance and labor exploitation. Together, these artists look back to traditions both within and beyond the visual arts to imagine possibilities for an uncertain future.

The title of this exhibition is inspired by John Akomfrah’s three-channel video installation The Unfinished Conversation (2012), which is included here and chronicles the life and work of the Jamaican-born British cultural theorist Stuart Hall (1932–2014). Hall recognized the power that museum collections have to both shape and reflect culture and communities, contending that they are sources of inspiration ‘which create thoughtprovoking visions of our past. They provide testimony to the darkest and brightest of human history.’ “— Introductory Wall Text

Installation view of Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Kara Walker (American, born 1969). 40 Acres of Mules. 2015. Charcoal on three sheets of paper. Overall 105 × 216″ (264.2 × 548.7 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Candace King Weir, Agnes Gund, and Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine Farley, 2016. © 2017 Kara Walker

Installation view of Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Andrea Bowers (American, born 1965). A Menace to Liberty. 2012. Marker on found cardboard. 160 x 110″ (406.4 x 279.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art. Purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art and by Susan G. Jacoby in honor of her mother Marjorie L. Goldberger, 2013. © 2017 Andrea Bowers

Installation view of Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Anna Boghiguian (Egyptian, born 1946). Untitled. 2011. Twelve drawings: gouache and pencil on paper each approx: 15 3/4 × 11 3/4″ (40 × 29.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century, 2016. © 2017 Anna Boghiguian

Anna Boghiguian (Egyptian, born 1946). Untitled. 2011. Twelve drawings: gouache and pencil on paper each approx: 15 3/4 × 11 3/4″ (40 × 29.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century, 2016. © 2017 Anna Boghiguian.

Installation view of Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Erik van Lieshout (Dutch, born 1968). Untitled. 2014. Conté crayon, synthetic polymer paint, felt-tip pen, and vinyl on paper. 59 x 107 7/8″ (149.9 x 274 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of The Contemporary Drawing and Print Associates of The Museum of Modern Art in memory of Riva Castleman, 2015. © 2017 Erik van Lieshout

Installation view of Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Installation view of Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Paul Chan (American, born Hong Kong 1973). The body of Oh Marys (truetype font). 2009. Ink on paper with shoes and expanding foam. 84 x 54″ (213.4 x 137.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased with funds provided by Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann, 2009. © 2017 Paul Chan

Installation view of Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck

Installation view of Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Martin Seck. Wolfgang Tillmans (German, born 1968). Sendeschluss / End of Broadcast I. 2014. © 2017 Wolfgang Tillmans

John Akomfrah (British, born 1957). The Unfinished Conversation. 2012. Three-channel video (color, sound). 45 min. The Contemporary Arts Council of the Museum of Modern Art, The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art, and through the generosity of Bilge Ogut and Haro Cumbusyan, 2016. © 2017 John Akomfrah.

John Akomfrah (British, born 1957). The Unfinished Conversation. 2012. Three-channel video (color, sound). 45 min. The Contemporary Arts Council of the Museum of Modern Art, The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art, and through the generosity of Bilge Ogut and Haro Cumbusyan, 2016. © 2017 John Akomfrah.

John Akomfrah (British, born 1957). The Unfinished Conversation. 2012. Three-channel video (color, sound). 45 min. The Contemporary Arts Council of the Museum of Modern Art, The Friends of Education of The Museum of Modern Art, and through the generosity of Bilge Ogut and Haro Cumbusyan, 2016. © 2017 John Akomfrah.

Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art and Director MoMA PS1; Lucy Gallun, Assistant Curator, Department of Photography; Thomas J. Lax, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art; Christian Rattemeyer, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints; and Yasmil Raymond, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, with Elizabeth Henderson, Department Coordinator, Office of the Chief Curator at Large.

Images courtesy The Museum of Modern Art.