The Art Angle Podcast: An Oral History of Ryan McGinley’s ‘The Kids Are Alright,’ 20 Years Later
This week, the artist Ryan McGinley looks back at his seminal photography exhibition and its lasting impact.
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February 2023 marked the 20th anniversary of photographer Ryan McGinley’s seminal exhibition “The Kids Are Alright” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which ran from February through May 2003. It was the 26-year-old’s solo exhibition debut, and the 20 photographs captured a particular place and time in New York City, in the shadow of September 11th, 2001 and the AIDS crisis; before the invention of Instagram and TikTok. It wasn’t just the latest downtown-meets-uptown youthquake salvo that reverberated around in the art world, but a photo exhibition that made McGinley a bona fide, post-millennial star—and shifted the culture.
At that time the Whitney was still in its Upper East Side location and “The Kids Are Alright” was the most talked about photo show at the museum since Nan Goldin’s exhibition “I’ll Be Your Mirror” in 1996. Overnight, Ryan became the superstar art photographer of his generation, documenting his decadent world. After him, this bohemian lineage basically slams shut with the onset of social media.
This week, the Art Angle presents an oral history of the exhibition and its influence featuring Artnet News style editor William Van Meter in conversation with McGinley himself, as well as artists Marc Hundley and Jack Walls; photography critic Vince Aletti, and the show’s original curator Sylvia Wolf.
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