In 1979, the New Museum inaugurated an ongoing exhibition series in the large window of the New School building facing 14th Street.Artists were encouraged to submit proposals for exhibiting works conceived especially for the site. These displays, initially lasting for approximately four weeks, were often mounted independently, but many were also curated in conjunction with larger exhibitions in the main galleries.
With the Museum’s move in 1983 to the Astor Building in Soho, the window series was expanded to encompass windows facing both Broadway and Mercer, with displays lasting approximately six weeks. Then, in December of the following year, the Window series were formally merged with the WorkSpace and New Work Gallery programs, under the umbrella of a new ongoing series called On View, focused on presenting work that had not received significant exposure in New York, as well as new works by more established artists. Displays were lengthened to eight weeks and were accompanied by brochures with essays and documentation, creating a sustained platform and critical apparatus for presenting emerging artists’ works.
The Window series continued to operate as a means of engaging the public, and the immediacy with which artists could create and display installations via the Window format at times leant itself to the presentation of works that directly engaged current social and political issues. In 1987, curator William Olander invited AIDS activist group ACT UP to create the window installation and the resulting work, Let the Record Show…, provided information regarding the AIDS epidemic and depicted the crisis from a historical perspective. Subsequent installations by General Idea, Gran Fury, and PONY, as well as the Museum’s annual participation in Visual AIDS’ Day With(out) Art, also promoted awareness of the issue. Some political Window exhibitions elicited strong reactions from the public, including negative reactions. Erika Rothenberg’s installation Have You Attacked America Today?, was vandalized twice during its display in 1989-1990.
Intermittently throughout its history, the windows also became sites for performance. Gina Wendkos’ Four Blondes (1981) provides an early example of artists creating performance works that have a generative relationship to the art installation. With the launch of the On View program in December 1984, the Mercer window became the regular site of Linda Montano’s Seven Years of Living Art (1984 - 1991), a residency and performance in which Montano returned one day a month for seven years to give consultations on life and art to visitors. In 1998, the Museum celebrated a major gallery renovation with the performance series Noon to Midnight, which took place in the Broadway Window. Thereafter, the Window facing Broadway was increasingly used to stage performances in conjunction with major exhibitions that occurred in the main gallery, expanding its scope to include experimental music, dance, and performance art, as well as a live physique demonstration by female bodybuilders. Artists featured during this period included Julia Mandle, Claudia Triozzi, Bum Cello, Cildo Meirelles, and Claude Wampler.
1979 – 2002