Diane Arbus: in the beginning at Met Breuer and Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency at MoMA


Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967. Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus’ exhibition entitled “Diane Arbus: in the beginning” is a stunning installation on the second floor of the Met Breuer. The decision to hang the photographs on individual columns, set up in rows and accessible from various directions, provides an element of discovery to explore the work.  By choosing to navigate the space from any direction, one is pulled from the traditional museum space to the street experience.

The show is curated by Jeff Rosenheim, the Met’s Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs and includes a  selection of over one hundred photographs, many of which have never been seen. Her famous portraits include children, couples, families as well as circus performers, nudists and trans people. Her  pioneering documentation of  the fringe culture, to which she gravitated to at an early age, illustrates her rebellion against the postwar conventional Eisenhower era of the 1950’s.


Two ladies at the automat, N.Y.C. 1966. Diane Arbus


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Nan and Brian in bed, New York City. 1983. Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin’s “Ballad of Sexual Dependency” at MoMA,” her 1980’s East Village rendition of La Boheme blew my mind!  It is a 700-image slideshow documenting her life and newly acquired family of friends and lovers over the years. It is deeply personal and depicts her experiences in Boston, New York, and Berlin in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. The 42 minute presentation reads like a novel with distinct chapters paired with the recurring intimate themes of love and loss, sexual and drug abuse, domestic violence and the ravages of AIDS. It is presented in a 35mm format with a specially selected soundtrack ranging from Maria Callas to the Velvet Underground.

In Goldin’s words, “The Ballad of Sexual Decency” is the diary I let people read”. “The diary is my form of control over my life. It allows me to obsessively record every detail. It enables me to remember.”

This powerful installation is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator at Large, MoMA, and Director of MoMA PS1 and his colleagues.



Photo by Nan Goldin


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