Photo courtesy of dOGUMENTA

Have you ever seen art at dog-level? News of dOGUMENTA, the free art exhibit for dogs (and their humans), has had tails wagging since May and now everyone’s in for a treat. From August 11-13th, Arts Brookfield is hosting America’s first art exhibit for dogs at the Brookfield Place Waterfront Plaza, featuring canine-minded work by ten artists. The exhibit is open at prime dog-walk time, from 8:00am – 1:00pm and 4:00pm – 8:00pm, to accommodate the heat sensitivity of New York City’s newest culture hounds.

Curator Jessica Dawson , a longtime art critic for publications like the Washington Post, Village Voice and Art in America, came up with the concept over the course of her gallery visits with Rocky, a rescue Morkie dog. Dawson noticed that Rocky was as much critic as critter: a Daniel Flavin enthusiast, a fearless explorer, and focussed observer (see the pair visiting Chelsea galleries here). Recognizing Rocky’s radically different perspective about the art on display, Dawson resolved to create an exhibit that would cater to dogs as viewers, inviting both canine and human species to perceive art from a dog’s eyes.

The only similar exhibit in recent history was the London-based “Play More,” sponsored by a pet insurance company and mostly designed for pet fun: think ball pits and a large fan disseminating shoe and meat smells. Named after the eminent German contemporary art exhibit dOCUMENTA, dOGUMENTA presents itself as an ambitious experiment in contemporary art for animals. Along with creative consultant Mica Scalin and Dawson herself, Rocky is billed as part of the curatorial team, “sniffing out New York City’s best art since 2013.” That organizational move is no joke: dOGUMENTA’s manifesto makes bold declarations about the revolutionary potential of seeing and making art for the pup’s perspective: “dOGUMENTA rekindles joy.” “dOGUMENTA eschews trends.” “dOGUMENTA goes with the gut.”

In her essay for Criterion, Dawson wrote that doggie creativity can break up the narrow, stale ways of the art world with a “singular capacity to remain in the moment and to see each artwork with fresh eyes.” Dawson says that it’s a project both sincere and self-aware, and is confident that “some people get it right away and see the multiple levels: humor and satirical quality, but also how it’s heartfelt, how I earnestly believe in it.” The final result of Dawson’s vision is a dog-friendly space that trades white Chelsea gallery walls for the downtown waterfront. Half dog park, half public art, the exhibit consists of ten pieces, most of them mounted on platforms of synthetic grass.

Ranging from Eric Hibit’s abstract blue-yellow-green sculpture (fitted to the canine color spectrum) to Kathryn Cornelius’ Sit, Stay, Heal meditation tent, dOGUMENTA’s pieces offer different approaches to art engagement for dogs. At the opening reception, the most puppy-loved items were performance-based: Dana Sherwood’s Baroque kibble feast, Confections of Canines and Kings, was enthusiastically chewed up, while peeing admirers marked their territory on Paul Vinet’s Fountain.

Other pieces present an opportunity for quadrupeds to become part of the installation itself. Two poodles (one medium, one extra-large) who went by Charlie and Sawyer settled themselves gracefully upon Graham Caldwell’s pink sofas. Dog and human posed for pictures inside a doghouse with an edible portrait, Noah Scalin’s The Hand That Feeds. 

Sophie, a rescue dog photographer, found the exhibit to be one of surprises: “I think it’s interesting to see how dogs relate to certain things. I would have expected for him to go to the treats, but he barely looked at them. It’s interesting because we can’t expect what they’ll look at. And you get to know them better.”

For artists, too, the commissioned pieces presented an untraditional challenge. Margarita Korol, who designed a mixed media safe canine space for the exhibit, reflected on the art-making and viewing: “Creativity is truly a practice, and sharing with your audience, even a canine one, allows for feedback loops we thrive on as producers of culture. I hope visitors feel inspired to produce interesting experiences daily for themselves and their dogs.”

For the next three days, follow the paws and sniff out this unusual exhibit. And if you don’t have a furry friend to be your +1, Bideawee will be visiting with dogs and puppies up for adoption on Saturday.

dOGUMENTA is free and open on August 11-13th at the Brookfield Place Waterfront Plaza from 8:00am – 1:00pm and 4:00pm – 8:00pm.

Next, check out 5 Pet Cafes in NYC and Cities 101: Which Pets are Illegal in NYC?