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Arts Highlights 2011: New York Critics, Writers Weigh In

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Last year was a wild year for NYC culture—from bare-chested performance art at MoMA, to the Drake riots at South Street Seaport to Afrobeat on Broadway. Pianos appeared on city streets out of nowhere, burlesque made a comeback, and Broadway stuntmen fell from the sky.

As we move into 2011, we asked some of our favorite culture vultures to weigh in on what to expect in the coming year in the arts. Here's what they said:




Mira Schor, Painter, Arts Writer and Blogger for A Year of Positive Thinking
"I hope that Color Moves: Art and Fashion by Sonia Delaunay at the Cooper-Hewitt will help highlight that Sonia Delaunay was the true pioneer in abstraction in the Robert and Sonia Delaunay couple—his was a relatively wan intellectual contribution compared to her robust and early embrace of pure abstraction, vibrant color, and vanguard integration of art and design. Also because these days quixotic may be a necessary way to go in political activism, in art and elsewhere, I’m looking forward to Maureen Connor and The Institute for Wishful Thinking’s utopic to the point of being quixotic project Artists in Residence for the United States Government [self-declared] at Momenta Art. Both shows open in March."


Paddy Johnson, Arts Writer and Blogger for Art Fag City “Expect the art twitterati to compulsively tweet about how GPS doesn’t work this June from the Venice Biennale. Though curated, the citywide show is, in my experience about as inconsistent as an art fair. I go because there’s enough work to guarantee at least some of it will be good, but I assume a lot of it will fail. Speaking of bad art, while no air date has been announced for Bravo’s second season of Work of Art, the hit reality TV show in which 14 artists compete for a show at The Brooklyn Museum, I assume it will kick off sometime in 2011. The series failed to find “The Next Great Artist” they claimed to be looking for, but they at least produced one or two entertaining episodes. I’ll be watching it again this year, though I’m guessing I won’t like what I see.”

Adam Feldman, Theater Critic for
Time Out New York
"The thinness of last season's musical-theater crop—only two new Broadway shows had original scores—gave ammunition to those who like to shoot their mouths off about the death of the Broadway musical. But this season tells a different story. Four new scores have already premiered, and seven more are scheduled for the spring: "Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark," "The Book of Mormon," "Catch Me If You Can," "Sister Act," "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," "Wonderland" and "The People in the Picture." Musical-theater junkies can only rejoice that Broadway has gotten back on the horse."

Edward Champion, Writer and Host of the Podcast "The Bat Segundo Show"
"Nobody nails the magical way that the pedantic clutter up consciousness quite like Nicholson Baker, a novelist incapable of writing books without an infectious sense of joy.  But I'm wondering if his forthcoming novel, House of Holes: A Book of Raunch (Simon & Schuster: August 9), also marks a return to The Fermata's boldly libidinous confessions. I'm also excited about new titles from two underrated novelists: Stewart O'Nan's Emily, Alone (Viking: March 17) concerns an older woman learning how to live after her children grow up and Edie Meidav's Lola, California (FSG: June 21) involves cult leaders, death row, and California spas—a crazed concatenation that may prove vital when we're all hiding inside with hot and wild dispositions. I hope Anna North's America Pacifica (Reagan Arthur Books: May 18), set on a North America island after the second ice age, will satisfy my dystopian jones. And on the comics front, I'm curious about Jessica Fink's Chester 5000-XYV (Top Shelf: May 10), a mélange of industrial revolution, Victorian attitudes, and robot sex that could give the world unpublishable ideas. My inner transportation geek awaits Richard White's Railroaded (Norton: May 31), a 700 page history on how transcontinental railroads transformed America, and Earl Swift's The Big Roads (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: June 9), which charts the beginnings of the American highway system. History, of course, isn't just about building. It's about pilfering and conquest. And if the economy carries on like this, Rachel Shteir's The Steal (Penguin Press: June 30), a cultural history of shoplifting, may be categorized in the self-help section."

Pia Catton, Arts Columnist for The
Wall Street Journal
"Dance, as always, is a balance of new and old. At New York City Ballet, Susan Stroman premiers a new ballet on Jan. 28, and Peter Martin’s “Swan Lake” returns in February. This production, with its stunning abstract sets by Danish painter Per Kirkeby, has an ending that breaks my heart every time. At American Ballet Theater, corps de ballet member Isabella Boylston is one to watch: her debut “Theme and Variations” (in Cuba) was crisp and electric. Also Cuba related: the National Ballet of Cuba comes to the Brooklyn Academy of Music on June 8, and Danza Contemoranea de Cuba plays the Joyce Theater May 10 to 22."


Dennis LimDennis Lim, Film Writer and Editor of Moving Image Source "The cinephile event of 2011 will most likely be 'Tree of Life,' the long-awaited new film by Terrence Malick, the great poet-philosopher of American movies. (The premiere of the trailer was big news last month; it’s opening in May and look for it to be unveiled at Cannes.) But I’m also greatly looking forward to a couple of HBO movies. Todd Haynes’s “Mildred Pierce” (airing in March) turns the James M. Cain novel—famously filmed with Joan Crawford in 1945—into a five-hour miniseries. The original is a classic film noir and women’s picture, and I can’t wait to see what Haynes has done with it—I don’t think there’s an American filmmaker who better understands the emotional and subversive power of genre material. There’s been much talk lately of the blurring lines between documentary and fiction, and HBO’s 'Cinema Verite' looks like it’ll be an interesting hall-of-mirrors exercise: a drama about the making of 'An American Family,' the legendary PBS documentary series about the Loud family that’s been widely credited and blamed for inventing reality TV."

J. Edward Keyes, Editor-in-Chief for eMusic
"In 2011, expect the line between independent music and big-name, arena-filling acts to become increasingly blurred. As the Internet continues to be the chief means of music distribution, the label an artist records for–for better or worse–will not be nearly as important as it had been in past decades. Celebrated major label bands will continue to scale down and indie bands will continue to scale up as the industry overall starts to even out. Also, artists both major and indie will spend the bulk of the year trying and failing to make a record better than PJ Harvey's 'Let England Shake.'"

Zach Baron, Music Writer for The Village Voice "2010 was a good year in music for pretty much everyone but genre purists, who faced some tough questions. Was Canadian indie rock collective Arcade Fire still indie rock after going No. 1 on the Billboard charts? Could you really call Drake a rapper when he crooned over half of “Thank Me Later”? And what to do about Kanye West and M.I.A. and Sleigh Bells and all the other great 2010 acts that mixed arena rock into their rap, Euro house into their R&B, pop melodies into their noise? In 2011, expect the traditional categories to become even more useless as artists, freed of conservative expectations by a confused record industry in free fall, and with an inexhaustible ocean of new styles and collaborators at their online fingertips make albums that sound like...well, who knows?"

Banning Eyre, Senior Editor for
"Slowly but surely, world music is going mainstream. The much lamented term is now a quarter-century old. That means today’s indie rockers grew up listening to King Sunny Ade and Franco, and kids count K’Naan among their generation’s hip hop personalities. It also means 'Fela!' on Broadway, and global sounds as commonplace elements in club soundtracks. So in 2011, I’ll be looking for that band or artist that sets a new benchmark, one savvy enough to capture existing commercial markets, but also more strongly globally identified. The stage is set for Vampire Weekend with dreadlocks."

Steve Smith, Music Critic for Time Out New York
"I think it’s going to be a tremendously exciting year. One of the big stories of 2010 was the way that contemporary classical music and adventurous pop music were growing closer together, and that's the subject of a festival that's going to happen at Merkin Hall  starting January 17, it’s called the Ecstatic Music Festival. That kind of vitality, you see it going throughout the season. I'm personally excited about "Nixon in China," the opera by John Adams finally coming to the Metropolitan Opera on February 2. And a couple of festivals worth watching in February: Eighth Blackbird, the innovative chamber group is doing a festival called Tune-In at the Park Avenue Armory, and Lincoln Center is doing another interesting festival in February called Tully Scope, which is a really eclectic mix of old and new music all taking place around Alice Tully Hall. That's just the tip of the iceberg, but that's the stuff on my calendar so far."


Julie Zied, TV Editor for Fancast "In early 2011, TV is all about voice and vision. Or vision and voice. The two are interchangeable. The biggest example:  The launch of OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s cable network. It’s a huge gamble for her and partner Discovery, and if it works it not only could mean billions of dollars but it could also mean copycat networks from other cultural heavyweights. Ryan Seacrest, for one, has already begun exploring his own cable network. Hallmark is experimenting with Martha Stewart. Oprah is trying to change the game and raise the bar at the same time. She’s focused on reality in its various guises but with a point of view—that of raising the human spirit. The other big example of the quest for voice and vision is American Idol, the Fox juggernaut, which is starting its tenth season with a mostly new panel of judges (Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler join original judge Randy Jackson), a new set, and new changes to the show–all of which are intended to reverse a downward ratings trend and also renew the show’s meaning, as well as its performers, into the musical firmament of pop culture. Not an easy task. CNN is attempting the same when it introduces Piers Morgan into the seat recently vacated by Larry King. Even Headline News is bringing in Dr. Drew Pinksy. HBO’s strong suit has always been voice and vision, and that will be in evidence later this spring when they launch their epic fantasy series Game of Thrones, which looks phenomenal. I’ve also enjoyed FX’s semi-dark new drama Lights Out, about a retired boxer struggling with identity and supporting his family; Showtime’s Shameless, another quirky family drama lead by William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum; and the super dark new mystery series from AMC, The Killing. Thus far, I’m unimpressed with the separate comeback efforts of Friends Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry, both of whom are in new comedies. And of course I can’t wait for the return of NBC’s Parks & Recreation. You could say TV is losing its middle ground.  You must have a strong show, and there are some as TV continues to figure out not only what viewers want but also what it’s supposed to be. Not the least of what’s changing TV are all the technological changes allowing people to watch anytime and anywhere, and we’re in the thick of that, too."

What do you hope to see in 2011? Please leave us a comment below.