In the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, surrounded by more than 300 years of history, a new exhibition immerses visitors in the city’s thriving contemporary art scene. The Historic New Orleans Collection—a museum, research center and publisher with three campuses in the historic district—presents “Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina,” presented by The Helis Foundation, in its new $38 million exhibition center at 520 Royal St.
The site comprises a meticulous restoration of a 19th-century building and courtyard, as well as new construction with modern influences, presenting a unique melding of old and new spaces that is unlike anything else in the French Quarter. “Art of the City,” as the inaugural changing exhibition, brings an ongoing citywide conversation about past and present to the fore.
The 1984 Louisiana World Exposition, which housed a major exhibition of contemporary art, 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 more than 75 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 is to recognize its importance as history in the making and is a significant commitment to the future of art in this city.”
“Art of the City” features the work of both homegrown visionaries and devoted visitors, including established artists 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,” said Lawrence. “This harmony guided us as we renovated the historic building at 520 Royal Street, added to it with the new construction, and assembled this arresting display of contemporary art, which is showcased alongside the centuries of visual art on view elsewhere at THNOC.”
The exhibition, made possible by a significant gift to THNOC from The Helis Foundation, includes a robust programming schedule and components that encourage residents and visitors to engage with art outside the gallery walls. Admission to the exhibition and all programming is free.
The exhibition will run through October 6, at THNOC’s new exhibition center, which was made possible in part through generous donations from the institution’s generous supporters. Admission is free, and it is open Tuesday–Saturday, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. and on Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.