Childhood, a subject of universal significance and personal experience, provides a compelling framework for understanding the past and imagining the future. To Begin Again: Artists and Childhood investigates the influence of children and childhood on visual artists from the early 20th century to today. While artists have long been inspired by children—by their imagination, creativity, and unique ways of seeing and being in the world—the field of art history has largely undervalued the influence of children and the subject of childhood. Through vibrant works of art, this exhibition illustrates the diverse experiences of childhood and engages childhood as an intellectual query into language and learning. The six thematic sections of To Begin Again explore how artists have grappled with timely issues of self-expression, creativity, power, care, labor, and learning through their engagement with childhood.
The exhibition features an international and intergenerational group of 40 artists whose works in painting, sculpture, photography, installation, and video offer distinctive viewpoints and experiences. The featured artists—many parents themselves—have made artwork that involves children as collaborators; mimics their ways of drawing or telling stories; and addresses ideas of innocence, spontaneity, and dependency closely associated with children. These artworks, along with a selection of works made by young people, reveal the multiform idea of childhood as the foundation upon which society is built, imagined, and negotiated. To Begin Again invites audiences of all ages to consider how children and childhood have inspired artists in making their work, and, in turn, how their work reflects, contributes to, and challenges perceptions of childhood.