|By Rob Goyanes

In 1975, with New York City on the verge of fiscal collapse, the New York Daily Post famously riffed on the president’s decision to not lend federal funds: “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.” While the ’70s are historicized as a time of manufacturing collapse and white middle class flight, the 1980s are conceived as a boom era of neoliberal capitalism—a “material world,” as Madonna intoned.
Like the rest of society, art underwent a paradigm shift. But perhaps less understood is the fact that art was also a model, a culprit even, for these tectonic changes.

A new exhibition at Washington, D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, “Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s,” surveys a group of almost 70 artists who were working in New York’s Lower East Side during this crucial period: a time of stock-market speculation, rapid globalization, and vast accelerations in consumer and media culture.
Though Marcel Duchamp’s readymades had brought objects into the art fold in the early 20th century, and Andy Warhol’s paintings and sculptures engaged product and packaging in the ’60s and ’70s, the LES artists of the ’80s were revolutionary for employing actual commodities …read more

Image: Installation view of Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2018. Left to right: Gretchen Bender, Untitled (People with AIDS), 1986; Donald Moffett, He Kills Me, 1987; Jessica Diamond, T.V Telepathy (Black and White Version), 1989. | Photo by Cathy Carver.