Alice Neel: People Come First is set to open at The Met in March. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Alice Neel: People Come First
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
From March 22 – August 1st, 2021

New York City’s art scene is kneeling to Alice Neel (1900-1984).

Set to run from March 22 to Aug. 1, 2021, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is preparing to unveil a retrospective of Neel, who is described as one of the 20th century’s most radical painters. According to the press release, Alice Neel: People Come First is New York City’s first retrospective of the artist in nearly 20 years.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, discussed the relevance of Neel’s art in today’s turbulent social and political climate, making it all the more important that her work is showcased now.

“Alice Neel was an outstanding painter whose iconic ‘pictures of people,’ as she called her portraits, radiate her fierce personal belief in humanity’s inherent dignity and her steadfast social conscience,” Hollein said. “Throughout her long career, Neel remained true to her own vision—despite many obstacles—and today her imagery resonates with our own challenging cultural and political circumstances in striking ways.”

The exhibition features roughly 100 paintings, drawings, and watercolors from the entirety of Neel’s collection. Beginning in the 1920s when she first made a name for herself and spanning until the end of her life in the 1980s, admirers of her work will have the chance to experience it all at once from the comfort of their homes.

Comprised of eight sections, Neel’s art will be sorted into categories that include her paintings of interiors, portraits of family, friends, social justice activists, prepartum and postpartum mothers, and candid nudes. Paintings from the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Suzanne Valadon, and Jacob Lawrence will also be featured in the exhibit to demonstrate the techniques in which Neel was inspired and those of which she strayed from.

The expressionist artist is known for creating intense, meaningful, and sometimes provocative portraiture. Pieces from other genres such as her landscapes and cityscapes will be also be featured in the exhibit. Giving a voice (or face) to the voiceless through her paintings, Neel’s work features the personalities that surrounded her which mainly drew from working-class people, Black activists, LGBTQ+ activists, and feminists. Given the American artist’s familiarity with New York City, living in places from Greenwich Village to Spanish Harlem, the survey is primarily focussing on her connection to the City That Never Sleeps.

“Neel’s portraits are deeply human: her empathy for the people in her community resulted in paintings of such unflinching intensity it is as if past and present—their time and ours—are brought together in a single moment. Now, when personal histories are crucial to establishing self-identity, Neel’s world tells the stories of human beings from all walks of life in the city she called home. Together they vividly capture the unique character of New York City.” – Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art, stated of the exhibition.

Following its presentation at The Met, the exhibition will travel to Guggenheim Bilbao (September 17, 2021–January 23, 2022) and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (March 12, 2022–July 10, 2022).

For more information click here.

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