Guggenheim

Alice Neel: People Come First will be the first retrospective in Spain of American artist Alice Neel (1900–1984). This ambitious survey will position 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 approximately one hundred paintings, drawings, and watercolors that will appear in this survey.

Images of activists demonstrating against fascism and racism will appear alongside paintings of impoverished victims of the Great Depression, as well as portraits of Neel’s neighbors in Spanish Harlem, leaders from a wide range of political organizations, queer artists and performers, and members of New York’s global diaspora. The exhibition will also highlight Neel’s erotic watercolors and pastels from the 1930s, her depictions of mothers, and her paintings of nude figures (some of them visibly pregnant), all of whose candor and irreverence are without precedent in the history of Western art.

A longtime resident of the city, New York served as Neel’s 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. “For me, people come first,” Neel declared in 1950. “I have tried to assert the dignity and eternal importance of the human being.”

Curated by Kelly Baum, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art, and Randall Griffey, Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, The Met with Lucia Agirre, Curator at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Exhibition organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Alice Neel
Nancy and Olivia, 1967
Oil on canvas
99.1 × 91.4 cm
Diane and David Goldsmith Collection
© Estate of Alice Neel, David Zwirner, New York/London