The Conference of the Animals is a mural by Ulrike Müller, presented in conjunction with 120 Years of Children Drawing New York City, an exhibition curated by Amy Zion. Both are site-specific projects that hug the 45-foot-high wall that encircles The Panorama of the City of New York, and refer to the building’s history as host to the United Nations from 1946-50.
Ulrike Müller’s work mobilizes different materials and explores ways of engaging viewers. Her seemingly abstract vocabulary of colors and shapes is emotionally and politically charged and encourages figurative readings. In past installations, Müller has used colored walls to act as backdrops for her enamel paintings, woven wool rugs, and works on paper. Here, she foregrounds the painted wall with giant animal-like shapes. Their muted palette and monumental scale draws on histories of public art and muralism before and after World War II.
The Conference of the Animals takes its title from German writer Erich Kästner’s children’s book The Animal’s Conference (1949), written in the aftermath of WWII. The story is a political satire about a group of animals who, frustrated by the inefficacy of human international conferences, convene to save the planet.
Art by children has played a role in modernist art history, used by artists as inspiration to help make sense of a world gone awry after the world wars. It has also played a role in international diplomacy, in which drawings and letters by children have been used to lobby for aid. Selected for their period-specific details and treatment of scale and perspective, the drawings in this exhibition were made by children from 1900 to today. They range from the childhood output of established artists to named and anonymous works of non-professional artists of various training and ability. A significant portion of the works are on loan from the Children’s Museum of Art.
The full-scale exhibition organized by Amy Zion will close August 16, 2020, while the wall painting by Müller remains on view through February 21, 2021. Selected drawings in facsimile form will continue to be on view on the Large Wall through February 21, 2021.
These projects are organized by Larissa Harris, Curator, and Sophia Marisa Lucas, Assistant Curator.