9/11 Museum Holds First Art Exhibition

This weekend marks the 15th anniversary of the tragedy.

The work by artist Eric Fischl titled Tumbling Woman stands on view at a preview of the new exhibition at the 9/11 Memorial Museum titled "Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11." Courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

As the country prepares to mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the National September 11 Memorial Museum is mounting its first art exhibition of work created in response to the tragedy.

“Through the lens of art, we reflect on the raw emotion we all felt on that unforgettable Tuesday morning 15 years ago,” said museum director Alice Greenwald in a statement. “Artists, like all of us, struggled to comprehend the unfathomable destruction and loss of innocent life. They responded the way they knew best—through their art.”

Ejay Weiss, <em>9/11 Elegies</em> (2001–02). Courtesy Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

Ejay Weiss, 9/11 Elegies
(2001–02). Courtesy Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial.

The show features the work of 13 artists or groups: Eric FischlGustavo Bonevardi, Monika Bravo, Tobi Kahn, Donna Levinstone, Colleen Mulrenan MacFarlane, Michael Mulhern, Christopher Saucedo, Manju Shandler, Doug and Mike Starn, Todd Stone, Ejay Weiss, and even Blue Man Group.

When the museum opened in 2014, there was only one artwork on view, a large installation by Spencer FinchTrying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning. The piece, made up of 2,983 squares of paper, each representing of the attack’s victims in a unique shade of blue, hangs on the central wall in the subterranean museum.

The new exhibition features a wide range of work, from pieces made during the immediate aftermath to later responses to the attacks. For instance, Mulrenan MacFarlane’s short film, daughter, sept. 13, shows the artist washing the dust and ashes off her father’s shirt, after he returned from three straight days helping the Ground Zero rescue and recovery effort as a deputy fire chief of the New York City Fire Department.

Michael Mulhern, Ash Road 14-45th. Courtesy Michael Mulhern, 9/11 Memorial.

Michael Mulhern, Ash Road 14-45th (detail). Courtesy Michael Mulhern, 9/11 Memorial.

In contrast, “it was years later in 2007 that it finally percolated to the surface” for Bonevardi, the artist told Newsday of his piece, Falling, which looks to recreate the sheets of paper that floated above Manhattan following the attacks. (A lifelong resident of Lower Manhattan, Bonevardi is also behind the annual Tribute in Light art installation that temporarily restores the towers in the form of two powerful beams of light.)

Other works incorporate artifacts from the day, such as Mulhern’s Ash Road 14-45th and Ash Roas 2-45th, silvery-gray paintings which include ashes from the World Trade Center.

Manju Shandler, <em>Gesture</em> (2001–02). Courtesy Manju Shandler, 9/11 Memorial.

Manju Shandler, Gesture (2001–02). Courtesy Manju Shandler, 9/11 Memorial.

The show also includes Fischl’s poignant sculpture, Tumbling Woman, one of several versions the artist made of a statue of a woman falling from the sky, that he told the New York Times was “the clearest illustration of the level of horror” of 9/11, and Shandler’s 2,996-piece painting installation, Gesture, which she created with grease pencil, acrylic, and spray paint to memorialize every person killed on that fateful day.

“Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11” is on view at the National September 11 Memorial Museum, 200 Liberty Street, September 12, 2016–January, 2017. 

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