Rocky and Jessica Dawson examine art by Elliot Hundley at the Andrea Rosen Gallery. Photo by Jason Falchook
A new art exhibition is coming to Brookfield Place in Battery Park City in New York City, but it’s not meant for human eyes. This art installation will cater directly to dogs. Called “dOGUMENTA,” it is the brainchild of art critic Jessica Dawson, and it will be on view this summer from August 11 to August 13.
dOGUMENTA will commission ten new artworks created by New York City artists, and these will be displayed outdoors as part of the event, which will be free to the public. Each of the pieces is intended to spark canine interests, through the use of sensory details such as colors, sounds, lights, and other techniques meant to provoke reactions from the perceptive pooches who come to see them.
Rocky comes face-to-face with art by Jaume Plensa at Galerie Lelong. Photo by Justin Falchook
The idea for the exhibition first appeared in Dawson’s mind while she was walking her rescue dog, Rocky, through various galleries in Chelsea. She began to notice that Rocky, a Morkie, (which is a cross between a Yorkshire terrier and a Maltese), showed different, often nuanced reactions to certain kinds of art. “As we spent more and more time together, it became clear that Rocky had something to teach me — to teach all of us — about finding joy in today’s art world,” Dawson told the New York Post. “Among his many skills, I noticed a singular capacity to remain in the moment and to see each artwork with fresh eyes.”
Observing art by Yinka Shonibare at the James Cohan. Photo by Justin Falchook
Dawson realized that Rocky had the ability to judge art without the influence of the critics – or, in truth, without much outside influence at all. From his perspective, far below most of the pieces he was observing, Rocky could see the art from a unique angle that fascinated Dawson – so much so that she decided to create an exhibit that would cater directly to Rocky and other four-legged creatures like him. True to form, Rocky is now listed as one of dOGUMENTA’s curators.
dOGUMENTA takes its name from the German international art exhibition Documenta, which will occur on the same dates as its American canine counterpart. Dawson’s exhibition is the first of its kind in America, but in 2016, an artist named Dominic Wilcox created a somewhat similar exhibition just for dogs in London. Some of the art in Wilcox’s show included a large bowl filled with balls, and an open car window simulator. What will set dOGUMENTA apart, though, is the high quality of the artwork it will showcase – artwork intended to “address the canine community’s concerns, interests, and worldview,” according to its website.
Art by Allen McCollum at the Mary Boone Gallery. Photo by Justin Falchook
The artwork will not be dog-themed, and nor will it take the form of simplistic toys made for entertainment value; these will be serious pieces – just displayed at dog-eye-level. Dawson has made it clear that this exhibition is not merely intended to provide entertainment for dog-owners. She believes that dogs have much to teach humans about the act of looking at art. In a lecture called “Five Things Dogs Can Teach Us About Art,” Dawson emphasized the canine’s ability to teach humans to “stay curious,” to “be fearless,” to “love without limitations,” to “[not] sweat the trends,” and to go with your guts.”
Perhaps dogs really do have a thing or two to teach the average jaded art viewer, and maybe someday soon there will be a wing in the Museum of Modern Art dedicated to art made just for canines. After all, it has been proven many times over that dogs can perceive things humans cannot. They have a much better sense of hearing and smell than humans, and often can perceive storms and other impending disasters with the aid of their keen senses. Maybe these heightened perceptive abilities could actually benefit dogs as they enter the art-viewing world.
For now, Dawson’s exhibit is still definitely quirky, startling, and innovative, and most likely will be a fascinating experience for the human and canine eye alike.
Art by Wenguchi Mutu at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery. Photo by Justin Falchook
Next, check out our list of the Top 10 Off-Leash Dog Parks in NYC.