Strictly Critical Video: Gopnik and Viveros-Fauné in Sugar Hill

Our critics go uptown to discuss “If You Build It”.


Our two critics scrap gallery world for art in the public realm at “If You Build It,” an exhibition curated by the socially-engaged nonprofit No Longer Empty. Housed inside a David Adjaye building dedicated to housing for low income and homeless residents of New York, the exhibition takes on multiple issues—from the history of Harlem to gentrification to racial profiling.

Our two critics ultimately disagree about the quality of the art on view, yet both remain impressed by the show’s big takeaway. This is art that doesn’t just open up access to new audiences. Many of its objects, video and installations insist on making that greater openness its principal message. Located in Harlem’s Sugar Hill neighborhood—the legendary epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance—the show and the setting take Gopnik and Christian Viveros-Fauné, however momentarily, out of their comfort zone.


Blake Gopnik: I can’t say there’s anything in here that I say Wow, that’s a really good work of art, but maybe what matters here is that this is an attempt to make art matter in the world of the 99 percent.

Christian Viveros-Fauné: There are times when content is complex enough and interesting enough that the visual, retinal vehicle of its delivery may not be the thing to be looking for.

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