Ulrike Müller and Amy Zion
The Conference of the Animals

The Conference of the Animals consists of a mural by artist Ulrike Müller and an exhibition of children’s drawings by independent curator Amy Zion. This project takes its title from German writer Erich Kästner’s children’s book The Animal’s Conference (1949) written in the aftermath of World War II. The story is a political satire about a group of animals who, frustrated by the inefficacy of human international conferences, convene to save the planet. 

As a painter, Müller’s seemingly abstract vocabulary of colors and shapes is emotionally and politically charged and encourages figurative readings. In past installations, Müller has used colored walls to act as backdrops for her enamel paintings, woven wool rugs, and works on paper. In The Conference of the Animals (A Mural), she foregrounds the painted wall with giant animal-like shapes. Their muted palette and monumental scale draws on histories of public art and muralism before and after World War II

While working on her proposal for the mural and thinking about the psychology of scale, Müller became interested in drawings by children—small people processing big events, ideas, and spaces—as an extension of her work. She invited curator Amy Zion to realize an exhibition in the adjoining gallery. Both the exhibition and mural are site-specific projects that hug the 45-foot-high wall that encircles The Panorama of the City of New York, and refer to the building’s history as host to the United Nations from 1946-50.

The Conference of the Animals (An Exhibition of Children’s Drawings) includes works by children from 1900 to today selected for their period-specific details and treatment of scale and perspective. Art by children has played a role in modernist art history, used by artists as inspiration to help make sense of a world gone awry after the world wars. It has also played a role in international diplomacy, in which drawings and letters by children have been used to lobby for aid. The works here range from the childhood output of established artists to named and anonymous works of non-professional artists of various training and ability. A significant portion of the works are on loan from the Children’s Museum of Art.

These projects are organized by Larissa Harris, Curator, and Sophia Marisa Lucas, Assistant Curator.

The Conference of the Animals was produced in collaboration with Phileas and with the generous support of legero united | con-tempus.eu. Major support provided by Helen and Charles Schwab and the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. Additional support provided by Richard Gerrig and Timothy Peterson, Alexandra Bowes, JoAnn Gonzalez Hickey LLLP, and Putter Pence. Special thanks to Benjamin Moore, Callicoon Fine Arts, and Gensler. The organizers of The Conference of the Animals (An Exhibition of Children’s Drawings) gratefully acknowledge our partner the Children’s Museum of the Arts.

Major funding for the Queens Museum is generously provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, the Booth Ferris Foundation, the Lambent Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, and the TD Charitable Foundation.

Images: Ulrike Muller, The Conference of the Animals (A Mural), 2020; (detail) The Conference of the Animals (An Exhibition of Children’s Drawings), organized by Amy Zion. Photos by Hai Zhang.

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