Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
“NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star” proposes that an art exhibit can function as a time capsule. The current exhibit at the New Museum in New York City takes a cross section of the art and culture produced in 1993 and displays it in the museum in no particular order and with no particular agenda. There are works from artists already famous in 1993 — like Kiki Smith — and artists who would soon become famous, like Mathew Barney. But there are also plenty of works from artists you've never heard of. Some of the work in the exhibit was originally shown in big galleries and museums. But some of it was never officially shown at all, or was only available in little-known galleries and private artist studios. The point of “NYC 1993” is to give a sense of what might have been encountered across the cultural landscape of New York City 20 years ago.
Promotional material for the exhibit argues that, “The social and economic landscape of the early ’90s was a cultural turning point both nationally and globally,” and that 1993 was a “pivotal moment in the New York art world.” But this is mere nervousness on the part of the curators, who don't want to be accused of creating a show that is utterly arbitrary. The perfect thing about 1993 is that it has no special significance. In the grand scope of history, 1993 means nothing.
The non-essential nature of the year 1993 is what makes it the proper subject for a time capsule. Time capsules are meant to give an overall picture of one period of time so that another period of time in the future can know what life was like back then. And if you want to give an overall picture, you want to stay away from extraordinary events or unusually significant points in history. You want to focus on the mundane.