This exhibition of contemporary artworks presents photography, video, sculpture, and painting seen through the lens of influential philosopher Walter Benjamin’s magnum opus The Arcades Project.

Walter Benjamin’s library card
Walter Benjamin’s library card

The German Jewish writer Walter Benjamin (1892–1940), one of the most important philosophers and cultural critics of the twentieth century, began The Arcades Project in 1927 as a short piece about Paris's nineteenth-century iron-and-glass vaulted shopping passages. With their labyrinthine architecture and surrealistic juxtapositions of disparate objects and people, past and present, the arcades offered an ideal prism through which to examine the era’s capitalist metropolis and the phenomenon of modernity that had its origins there. Benjamin worked extensively on his manuscript, which grew into a sprawling compendium of quotations, reflections, and notes. When he was forced to flee Paris to escape Nazi persecution, he entrusted it to his friend Georges Bataille. Some years after Benjamin’s untimely death, the text was discovered and published. The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin1 will explore The Arcades Project and its ongoing relevance through works of contemporary art representing the subjects of each of the book's thirty-six chapters. The exhibition will combine archival material from the Walter Benjamin archive in Berlin, architectural models, and artwork to evoke the elaborate structure of Benjamin's text.

Transposing Benjamin’s arcades to the galleries of the Museum, the exhibition invites the visitor to take on the role of the flâneur, the archetypal leisured city dweller who strolled through Paris at ease, coolly attentive and open to happenstance. In addition to traditional wall labels, the poet Kenneth Goldsmith will annotate each work with appropriated texts, extending Benjamin’s reflection on Paris as the capital of the nineteenth century into New York as the capital of the twentieth.

Participating Artists: Erica Baum, Walead Beshty, Milena Bonilla, Andrea Bowers, Nicholas Buffon, Chris Burden, Haris Epaminonda and Daniel Gustav Cramer, Simon Evans, Walker Evans, Claire Fontaine, Lee Friedlander, Rodney Graham, Andreas Gursky, Raymond Hains, Pierre Huyghe, Voluspa Jarpa, Jesper Just, Sanya Kantarovsky, Mike Kelley, Tim Lee, Jorge Macchi, Adam Pendleton, Martín Ramírez, Bill Rauhauser, Mary Reid Kelley, Ry Rocklen, Markus Schinwald, Collier Schorr, Cindy Sherman, Taryn Simon, Joel Sternfeld, Mungo Thomson, Timm Ulrichs, Guido van der Werve, James Welling, Cerith Wyn Evans

  • 1. #TheArcades

    The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin is curated by Jens Hoffmann, Director of Special Exhibitions and Public Programs, The Jewish Museum, assisted by Shira Backer, Leon Levy Curatorial Associate, The Jewish Museum. The exhibition and its accompanying publication have been designed by Project Projects.

    The Arcades: Contemporary Art and Walter Benjamin is made possible by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, the Goldie and David Blanksteen Foundation in memory of David Blanksteen, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

    Additional support is provided by the Melva Bucksbaum Fund for Contemporary Art, the Barbara Horowitz Contemporary Art Fund, the Jewish Museum Centennial Exhibition Fund, Alfred J. Grunebaum & Ruth Grunebaum Sondheimer Memorial Fund, the Horace W. Goldsmith Exhibitions Endowment Fund, and the Leon Levy Foundation.