Polish artist Paweł Althamer — whose sculptural figures of himself, friends, family, and neighbors pull off the neat trick of being simultaneously friendly and slightly disturbing — has a big exhibition coming up at the New Museum later this month. “The Neighbors” will fill the museum’s three main gallery floors, and all the promo photos we’ve seen indicate this will be a must-go. So what a great surprise last night when we popped in for the New Museum’s weekly pay-what-you-want hours (for another look at the spaceship) and learned that they’ve opened up an entire floor’s worth of Althamer’s works some two weeks in advance of the official start date.
There are probably a dozen pieces on the museum’s third floor, and they seem to fall into two categories: life-sized, lifelike figures with a dark twist (e.g., freaky mask, or half-horse) and more diorama-type works. In the latter category is a tiny, abandoned-looking house as well as a huge countryside — complete with rolling hills, a tagged-up barn, fisherman, and strange little action figures — that takes over one entire corner of the gallery.
Below are just some of the works that’ll be on display when the full exhibit opens Feb. 12. As mentioned when the New Museum announced its next year of programming, its fourth floor will host a new presentation of “Draftsmen’s Congress” (originally staged at the Berlin Biennial in 2012), during which visitors can pick up pencils and paintbrushes and transform the gallery’s white walls. A series of 50 street musicians will perform outside of the museum, Althamer will lead sculpture workshops on the second floor, and you’ll also get to see “So-Called Waves and Other Phenomena of the Mind,” a series of videos documenting the artist’s experimentation with various drugs as a path to enlightenment.