New Orleans is not a city synonymous with contemporary art. Nevertheless, it has numerous world-class museums and galleries. And an hour or two of quiet contemplation can make a refreshing change from rich food and live jazz. The selection below offers something for everyone. These venues are all within walking distance of one another, with the exceptions of the New Orleans Museum of Art and Studio Be.
Arthur Roger Gallery
Traditionalists have long lamented that hardly anyone paints in a classical realistic style anymore. But there are artists working with precisely this sort of visual language, notably in the Black community. Their artworks claim 19th-century heroic iconography — think Jacques-Louis David’s depictions of Napoleon — as their own, placing people of color in military and regal settings ordinarily associated only with white people.
The most famous artist working in this style is Kehinde Wiley, who painted the presidential portrait of Barack Obama, but Detroit-based Mario Moore is close on his heels. We saw a wonderful exhibition of Moore’s striking paintings at this gallery, including the monumental equestrian painting “The Great Reckoning.” The piece, created between 2020 and 2021, uses Civil War imagery to comment incisively on the present. I was also taken with his small-scale works based on old tintypes.