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Three to see: New York

From a dazzling designer to "audience-activated" works of art

by Victoria Stapley-Brown  |  6 April 2017
Three to see: New York
Judith Leiber's Asparagus minaudière with rhinestones (1996). (Photo by Gary Mamay; courtesy the Leiber Collection)
Walk through a vision of Walter Benjamin’s book The Arcades Project at the Jewish Museum. The exhibition, titled The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin (until 6 August), has 36 sections, one for each part of Benjamin’s unfinished book about 19th-century shopping arcades in Paris. Most sections feature only one work of art and each work is paired with a text selected by the poet Kenneth Goldsmith. Examples include an ink print by Mary Reid Kelley accompanied by lyrics to the Cure’s 1987 song How Beautiful You Are, which was inspired by a Baudelaire poem. In the catalogue, the curator Jens Hoffmann calls the show “a curatorial experiment that understands the exhibition space as a microcosm of our neoliberal capitalist society." No matter your take, it is an opportunity to see the work of over 40 artists—including Andrea Bowers, Pierre Huyghe, Cindy Sherman and Taryn Simon—in a new light.

The artist Erwin Wurm invites you to become a work of art at his new show, titled Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order (until 26 May), at Lehmann Maupin gallery. In the show, pieces of mid-century modern furniture are used as props for visitors to carry out the artist's instructions. These “audience-activated” works—an idea Wurm has been working on for 20 years, and which is the basis his project to be shown at the Austrian pavilion at the forthcoming Venice Biennale—ask for participants to hold poses for a minute at a time. Those who are not up to the task can appreciate five new cast bronze and mixed-media sculptures that only ask for visual attention.

The Museum of Arts and Design presents a feel-good story about a successful immigrant entrepreneur in the exhibition Judith Leiber: Crafting a New York Story (until 6 August). The 96-year-old handbag designer and Holocaust survivor came to New York from Hungary in 1946 and founded her eponymous company in 1963. The show features around 100 of her handbag designs, from dazzling, crystal-encrusted minaudières—small clutches whimsically shaped like smiling pigs and bundles of asparagus—to envelope-style purses inspired by artists like Sonia Delaunay and Georges Braques. It also demonstrates her craftsmanship and her skilful use of materials from Lucite to ebony. Her creative process is revealed through moulds for minaudières. Also included is a quilt by the artist Faith Ringgold, who collaborated with Leiber on a line of handbags.  

• Click here for a complete list of previously recommended New York shows

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