Art21 Announces Ninth Season of TV Show, Book of Artist Interviews

Stills from Art21 programming.


Art21, the New York–based nonprofit best known for its documentaries about contemporary artists, has announced three new initiatives—the organization’s first-ever gala, the premiere of the ninth season of its Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS, and the publication of a book of artist interviews titled Being an Artist.

The ninth season of Art in the Twenty-First Century will debut on September 21, filmed, for the first time, in 4K resolution. Details about which artists will be featured in the upcoming season will be revealed in May. According to Art21’s executive director and chief curator, Tina Kukielski, the upcoming season will reflect the organization’s continued interest in artists’ relationships with their communities and environments.

“It’s the longest-running series about contemporary art on television, and that’s a commitment we’re doubling down on,” she told ARTnews. “We have the ability to think curatorially about storytelling about art.”

The publication Being an Artist will include a collection of interviews with over 35 artists, many of which were previously unpublished. Among the artists featured in the book are Kerry James Marshall, Maya Lin, Bruce Nauman, and Catherine Opie. Art21 has not published a book since season six of its television series, making Being an Artist’s release in fall 2018 especially significant.

“We really want the book to be as useful as possible in curriculum building and for those really interested in the artistic process,” Kukielski said.

The organization’s first gala, which will take place in New York on May 1, will honor Susan Sollins, Art21’s founding executive director, who died in 2014, and artist Julie Mehretu, whose work has been spotlighted in several Art21 film projects. Additionally, artist Pedro Reyes will design a birthday cake that will be served to guests at the event, and a silent auction will be held, with artworks by Katharina Grosse, Rashid Johnson, Aki Sasamoto, Sarah Sze, and others included in the sale.

Looking to the future, the organization seeks to pivot to a multi-platform, digital-first mode of storytelling, all the while emphasizing “the artist as a creative role model,” according to Kukielski. She pointed to uncertainty surrounding the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Federal Communications Commission, and net neutrality as evidence of a need for more support for the arts.

“We recognize that Art21 has a role to play when it comes to advocacy,” she said, “and [we’re] recognizing that the artists themselves are role models for creative thinking. [We’re] building a conversation around that that is essential for the future.” 

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