The Met’s ambitious, career-spanning survey Alice Neel: People Come First will close on August 1. The critically acclaimed exhibition—the first museum retrospective in New York of the American artist in 20 years—positions Neel as one of the century’s most radical painters, a champion of social justice whose longstanding commitment to humanist principles inspired her life as well as her art, as demonstrated in the survey’s approximately 100 paintings, drawings, and watercolors.
In keeping with the artist’s commitment to painting “pictures of people,” which she considered to be historical records of the time in which they were made, the exhibition features dozens of Neel’s most striking portraits, celebrated today for their unyielding psychological acumen. The survey also sheds light on her accomplishments in other genres, specifically still lifes, landscapes, and cityscapes. The inclusion of relevant ephemera and personal effects—such as photographs and leftist periodicals to which she contributed drawings—illuminates her relationships, personality, and political convictions as well as her eventual entree into American popular culture. Neel was a longtime resident of New York, and the city served as her most faithful subject. Indeed, the sum total of her work testifies to the drama of its streets, the quotidian beauty of its buildings, and, most importantly, the diversity, resilience, and passion of its residents.
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).
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