Se framåt för att söka beständighet; Dan Jönsson skrev (som en kommentar till kulturutredningen) för några dagar sedan i DN om hur han tänker sig att söka kvalitet i konsten:
”När jag som kritiker bedömer kvaliteten hos ett konstnärligt arbete frågar jag mig alltså inte främst: Är detta kul? Känns detta aktuellt? Utan: Kommer detta att betyda något om femtio år? Om fem? Om några veckor?”
Det generella och nästan hundraprocentigt säkra svaret på de två första delarna av frågan (50 år och 5 år) är NEJ. Några veckor är något mer komplicerat. Större utställningar brukar klarna efter den tidsrymden. Venedigbiennalen lär t ex bli överblickbar om ytterligare ett par veckor. Samtidigt får man också inse att kritikerns ställningstagande är ett kollektivt svar. Det som blir kvar, alltså det som är väsentligt är precis det som konstvärlden kommer överens om som kvalitet. Självklart kan en kritiker hålla fast vid egna favoriter och smaksensationer men det spelar ingen roll eftersom det marginella inte gäller. Någon gång kan en envis kritiker ha tur och satsa på ett kort som ger utdelning längre fram, alltså när konstvärlden ”upptäcker” en tidigare glömd konstnär. Det är emellertid sällsynt.
En 50-årsperiod för oss tillbaka till 1959. Jag har inga aktuella uppgifter om det året men om vi går till 1964 visades det året popkonst på Moderna Museet. Kritikern Eugen Wretholm fann inget särskilt uppseendeväckande hos Warhol eller Tom Wesselman, intressantast fann han istället George Segal och Jim Dine. Hade det varit möjligt för Wretholm att inse Warhols kommande storhet?
Hur var det då med fem år? Vad minns vi från det internationella konståret 2004? Finns det överhuvudtaget något minnesvärt? Ni kan bläddra ner på den här sidan och se min sammanställning av 2004 (texten är en del av mitt av Konsthögskolans i Bergen refuserade manus). En rad citat visar vad hur man uppfattade händelserna och frågan är om något av det idag kan sägas vara mindre lyckades bedömningar. Ett par saker kan nog leva vidare. Berlinbiennalen 2004 av Ute Meta Bauer var strängt teoretisk och blev en vändpunkt. Efter den blev utställningarna publikvänligare. Critical Art Ensemble blev instämda till domstol för olaglig konst, ett tidsdokument om övernitiskhet i kriget mot terrorn. Kanske kommer man också att minnas Andrea Frasers video där hon har samlag med en gallerist, ett radikalt grepp i den institutionella kritiken. En annonsering om måleriets återkomst fanns också med i flödet, Neo Rauch och Leipzigskolan, hade upptäckts på allvar. Och curatorn för Saõ Paulo biennalen ansåg också att måleriet var på väg tillbaka. Men av det blev just ingenting. Endast en av de många asiatiska biennalerna väckte uppmärksamhet. I Taipei-biennalen kom den lokala curatorn och den europeiska i gräl om hur fördelningen av de lokala och de internationella konstnärerna skulle göras. Men det lär inte gå till historien. Jeremy Deller fick Turnerpriset det här året och han är nog rätt konstnär för den här perioden. Troligen får han också en plats i konsthistorien. En sak till kan gå till historien: Artfacts introducerades.
Kvalitet handlar i stor utsträckning om tendenser, rätt tendens utgör en kvalitet och de konstnärer som gör de förebildliga projekten betraktas som de bästa. När tiden går kan den kvaliteten slipas ner så att det blir litet eller nästan ingenting kvar.
Det internationella konståret 2004
Globalization in art: the battle between modern and ethnic. Art market constantly booming. Efforts to find new variations for biennales. Artfacts presents “artist ranking” system. The Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq.
Walter Robinson made a summary of 2004 in Artnet:
“We don’t have art movements any more, for one thing. We have market movements. In the place of successive modernist and post-modernist esthetic revolutions — now decades in the past — we have fads and collector enthusiasms, things like Japanese anime, Chinese photography and the new Leipzig painters. Such developments are symptoms of a fallow, second- and third-generation period, and at the same time indicate new levels of competition in the continuously expanding, robust international art market.”
This statement was also valid for 2003 and for the coming years all the way to 2008. But a closer look makes it possible to refine the picture. Most of the period of 00s the social critique and globalization are the main issues.
The art market had an enormous fascination both on the art world and on the world. This year Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), the famous shark in a tank of formaldehyde, was sold by Saatchi to Steven A. Cohen, a billionaire hedge fund manager, for $8 million, second only to Jeff Koons for a living artist’s work. Larry Gagosian, who had signed Hirst for a new contract, was involved. Gagosian, should become one of the most influential players in the art world during the 00s. In 2008 he has five galleries and is showing artists like Ghada Amer, Tracey Emin, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Piotr Uklanski, Francesco Vezzoli, Franz West, just to mentioned a few.
When the art market is prospering the developments in the art seems less dynamic. A possible explanation is that everyone knows that art can be sold when a boom is going on. It is very difficult to avoid such an interest. And why should the artists avoid making arrangements for selling? The biennales are normally non-commercial but participating in a biennale will open a market. Even if some artists are working with no direct interest for gaining financially on their art it is still the harsh rule that somebody got to pay. A necessary step in a carrier is to participate in gallery shows and get a dealer. Having a supporting gallery means much for an artist. It is often the initiative from the gallery that makes the way to a biennale. This system grows much more intensive when the market is strong. Even if the art world is not looking at money as a primary goal it is a status for any artist to have a good sale. It actually seems that when the market is going bad more experiments are made by the artists. Also the fact that such experiments are shown and get attention as the standard forms of art are less interesting; they don’t sell and they get less attention.
The 3rd Berlin Biennale (60.000 visitors, 800 reviews)
For this exhibition the artists, cultural producers, film makers and authors who took part were selected by Ute Meta Bauer on the basis of the structural changes the city has experienced since the end of the East-West conflict. Berlin served as reference point for the presentation of a broad international spectrum of visual, urban, cinematic, performativ and sonic stagings.
The five main themes were – divided spatially within the exhibit and thus called “hubs” – on MIGRATION (Hito Steyerl), URBAN CONDITIONS (Jesko Fezer and Axel John Wieder), SONIC SCAPES (The Sonic Team), FASHIONS AND SCENES (Regina Möller) and OTHER CINEMAS (Mark Nash), that were created to a large extent on site, were directly related to the exhibition’s location, Berlin. Included was also a show called A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN, probably an attempt to revive feminism.
The Biennale became known as “too theoretical”. Jennifer Allen wrote in Artforum:
“As the artistic director of “B[B.sub.3],” Ute Meta Bauer has single-handedly managed to epitomize–and to extinguish–the curatorial style that blossomed at Documenta 11, for which Bauer served as cocurator. Any lingering doubts abouts the documenta(ry) approach–too historical? too museal? too politically correct? too theoretical?–were not only confirmed in Berlin but also writ so large that the artworks in the show ended up creating a monument to this curatorial model while simultaneously announcing its obsolescence.”
“So, we don’t have to think about that anymore, but one hopes that B[B.sub.3]’s overplay of politics will not lead to its neglect in a conservative backlash of pure formalism–already apparent in a spate of painting shows in Germany last year. Now the work begins: to free art from the determinate concept. And from the overdetermined curator.”
Most reviews were critical to the dominating theoretical issues.
“As a whole it is as exciting as an interesting documentary. It has the charm of well organized order. Without breathing the biennale this time seems resting, beautiful and a bit boring.” (Katja Blomberg in Die Presse Online). “It is thus that the Biennale presents its objects as sterile as possible.” (Brigitte Werneburg in TAZ) “In the times of the Berlinale you run away from theory to professional cinema…It is as it was in the last and in the last but one Documenta and probably also in the next, the time of documentary art.” (Holger Liebs in Süddeutsche Zeitung). “The spectator will here and always learn to put one’s feet against a whole part of theory, that is reading, reading and look at videos.” (Nicola Kuhn, Der Tagesspiegel)
Ute Meta Bauer and the 3rd Berlin Biennale hit the wall of art as theory and curator’s statement. Documenta 11 came out as an interesting and necessary experiment. But in Berlin it became overkill on theory. Probably it can be said that the road map for art as a theoretical instrument arrived at a turning point. Art as curator’s theoretical and sociologically inspired statements and art as research would be of decreasing interest during the following years. But this doesn’t mean that the art world turned away from theory. It was rather a matter of balance between theory and practice. It is a matter about how art should find its identity. Theory is nowadays the backup for the lost aesthetics but art still has to show something different which is not theory. One important question is about how art should be presented. It is obviously not a good idea to turn a biennale into a study centre.
“People go to a Biennial to complain—about who gets in, who gets left out, and who gets to decide. They go to find the next centre of the art world. They go simply to learn about and to enjoy the art. And they go for a nice afternoon in a nice part of town. In short, they go for the curators behind it all, the hot galleries on display, the artists, and Central Park just up the block”, wrote John Haber in his review of the Whitney biennale. And he has a point.
At the Whitney biennale artist working in the USA were shown. The curators Chrissie Iles, Shamim M. Momin and Debra Singer said in the catalogue about the artists:
”Their work is characterized by the mapping of an invented interior world, or the metaphorical exploration of the abstract, nonlinear environment of cyberspace, to investigate new belief structures that might replace those of the contemporary world that appear increasingly bankrupt.”
Debra Singer: ”…new tactics of appropriation are often characterized by a far greater specificity of cultural or political reference that was generally present in the earlier work, and the artists tend to employ labor-intensive processes that emphasize the materiality of the art object and convey a more intimate style of direct address.”
And the main menu:
“An Intergenerational Conversation
* Several generations of artists are featured in the exhibition, in a conversation that reflects a number of overlapping trends:
* An engagement with the artmaking, popular culture, and politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s;
* The construction of fantastic worlds, uncanny spaces, and new narrative forms, often incorporating psychedelia, the Gothic, and the apocalyptic;
* A prevalence of abstract and figurative paintings and drawings as well as hand-processed films, frequently involving obsessive working of line, surface, and image.
Ranging from the apocalyptic to the ethereal, the fantastic to the political, and the sensual to the obsessive, many of the works convey an underlying sense of anxiety and uncertainty about the world today. The Biennial artists have drawn from a variety of sources including music, pulp fiction, the occult, recent and past art history, cinema, and current political events. A direct engagement with materials and process, paralleled by an embracing of ornament and surface, is evident throughout the show, which includes strong groupings of painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, installation, video, filmmaking, photography, performance, and digital art.”
Whitney biennale will probably never become theoretical. In the normal procedure the theory is always there but is more of a diffuse contextual background – as can be seen above. Jerry Saltz (Village Voice) summarized the event:
“Call this the OK Biennial. The 2004 Whitney Biennial never goes off-the-tracks bad but it rarely goes off-the-charts good, either. There’s a lot of worthy work on hand, some surprises, and a few high moments. Artists I’m only mildly interested in impress. But overall it’s tame. There’s not a lot of heat here, and little that’s juicy or transcendental…After [Laura] Owens and [Elizabeth] Peyton, the most ravishing works in this show are Yayoi Kusama’s walk-in room of colored lights and Slater Bradley’s video love song to the cosmos. I also really liked Dave Muller’s wall, Erick Swenson’s elegant deer, Harrell Fletcher’s James Joyce video, Andrea Zittel’s kooky study center, Emily Jacir’s Palestinian project, Aïda Ruilova’s bombarding video snippets, the extraordinary music of Antony and the Johnsons, Eve Sussman’s video Velázquez, Deborah Stratman’s film in the Simparch installation, Marina Abramovic’s poignant video, Jim Hodges, Spencer Finch, Yutaka Sone, Catherine Sullivan, and the best yet Central Park sculpture installations.”
And now to another part of the globalized art world: 6th Biennale in Dakar, Senegal. The aim of this biennale is: “To create new approaches in the definition and the conceptual view of contemporary arts in Africa. – To show in front of a large audience coming all around the world an african people which creates and innovates. – To create new collaborations among african creators on the one hand and among African creators and those of other conti-nents on the other hand.”
The event is dominated of African artists and few of them were known in the West. The exhibitions in this biennale showed that Dakar also followed the trend of internationalism, “Africa”, “Diaspora” and Hans Ulrich Obrist as curator for “World” with Doug Aitken, Allora & Calzadilla, Trisha Donnelly, Yang Fudong, Dominique Gonzales-Foerster, Carsten Höller, Isaac Julien, Multiplicity, Philippe Parreno, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Anri Sala, Anton Vidokle.
Iolanda Pensa (universes-in-universe) wrote a short review:
“Among chairs, tables, old documents, and dust, he [Obrist] created two island-spaces: a cinema and a TV room, both laid out with colorful cushions and carpets designed by the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija. Thanks to very transportable DVD technology, the show presented videos by popular international artists focused on the relationship between art and space.”
14th Sydney biennale
“On Reason and Emotion”, inspired by neurologist Antonio Damasio, and curated by Isabel Carlos. The theme, built around the idea that reason and emotion can not be separated, could be seen as another variation of biennales which tried to find an alternative to a conceptual attitude. But it is probably correct to say that the theme had little influence and hardly meant very much for the show. The Sydney biennale has a special task. Australia is a part of the Western world and the country is eager to be an updated part of it. In practice it means that the biennale always repeats what is going on at the arenas in the West. As globalization was the latest fashion, Sydney tried to be international; this biennale had only two US artists, Bruce Nauman and Jimmie Durham.
The biennale 2002 had 250 000 visitors but the important task is to promote Australia as a country of culture and contemporary art:
“Patos Latos-Valier (general manager) says its financial future is now secure. The Biennale was one of the big winners in last year’s Myer report into arts funding, which led to the Howard Government pledging $750,000 to it over the next four years. The Biennale is also blessed with a raft of corporate sponsors, headed by Transfield and John Schaeffer’s Tempo Services.
What makes such hard-headed business identities back something as ‘wacky’ as contemporary art?
‘They want to be seen promoting culture, not just sport,’ says Latos-Valier. ‘They see us as an organisation committed to international dialogue. We’ve shown 1200 artists from 60 countries’.” (Interview Steve Meacham, Sydney Morning Herald)
Some of the artists: Vito Acconci, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Francis Alÿs, Eleanor Antin, Atelier van Lieshout, Chris Burden, George Bures Miller, Janet Cardiff, James Coleman, Jimmie Durham, Matias Faldbakken, Rodney Graham, Susan Hiller, Aleksandra Mir, Bruce Nauman, Mike Nelson, Olaf Nicolai, Panamarenko, Philippe Parreno, Simon Patterson, Joao Penalva, Jim Shaw, Ann Sofi Sidén, Vibeke Tandberg, Heimo Zobernig
The 5th Santa Fe Biennale
This biennale had an impressive number of well established and a generation back artists. Curator Robert Storr, not an enthusiast of social critique, had chosen an aesthetic theme “Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque”. “Of the approximately 60 artists in the exhibition, most will be represented by one largescale work, some by several works in a smaller format. Two installations and two media projects will be created especially for the Biennial”.
This type of biennale is not a part of the main efforts of establishing a connection with the present. It is more of a “keeping up the tradition”, showing contemporary or a little older contemporary artist as a part of art history. A “contemporary artist” is of course not only an artist active in the present. It means in this context artists who are sharing the current ideas in the art world.
Among others at Santa Fe: Louise Bourgeois, Francesco Clemente, John Currin, Carrol Dunham, Tom Friedman, Ellen Gallagher, Robert Gober, Jörg Immendorff, Jasper Johns, Mike Kelley, Sherrie Levine, Christian Marclay, Paul McCarthy, Elizabeth Murray, Bruce Nauman, Hermann Nitsch, Raymond Pettibon, Lari Pittman, Sigmar Polke, Neo Rauch, Susan Rothenberg, Peter Saul, Jenny Saville, Thomas Schütte, Jim Shaw, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, Kara Walker, Jeff Wall, Franz West, Lisa Yuskavage
The 26th São Paulo biennale
The theme was “Free Territories” given by the curator Alfons Hug who wrote several long texts to explain his vision. Clearly the art world was aware of the situation mentioned above; art between the heavy theory and the sensuous, between a political discourse and the aesthetics: “The multiplicity of documentary strategies that has been observed even at major international exhibitions over the last few years suggests that confidence in the power of aesthetics is dwindling.” Globalization, though, was neutral and necessary. For Hug, art was a possible solution: “Artists create a power-free zone, a world that runs contrary to the existing one: a land of emptiness, of silence and respite, where the frenzy that surrounds us is brought to a standstill for a moment.” And: “Ultimately, art is more radical than politics, because it reaches into the spiritual levels of the individual, where the real transformation of human society takes place.”
According to Hug there was also a return of painting going on: “Why is painting, which is also prominently represented at the Biennial, today yet again experiencing a rebirth?” We have got used to this frequent saying. Since the 80s painting is always returning without ever coming back. This question is probably very simple. Art is dependant on a discourse, a contextual content. Art can use all kinds of form but preferably not too much of any. Now and then painting becomes somewhat more interesting than before, just like video or performance. From a market point of view, painting is a better choice than most other media thus it uses to expand when there is a boom.
After all these beautiful words the biennale turned out be rather conventional. As James Trainer summarized in Frieze Magazine: “was a tired exercise in universalist platitudes about a cosmopolitan vernacular and the emergence of a international common culture in which there was suddenly, magically, ‘no longer any periphery’ (as the curator Alfons Hug then claimed)”
135 artists and groups were participating either invited or in the national representations.
Among the invited artists:
Massimo Bartolini (Italy), Mark Dion (USA), Lívia Flores (Brazil), Henrik Håkansson (Sweden), Sergej Jensen (Denmark), Aernout Mik (The Netherlands), Albert Oehlen (Germany), Catherine Opie (USA), Jorge Pardo (USA), Hans Hamid Rasmussen (Norway), Neo Rauch (Germany), Wilhelm Sasnal (Poland), Santiago Sierra (Spain/Mexico), Simon Starling (Great Britain), Su-Mei Tse (Luxemburg)
The 4th Busan biennale (Korea)
Busan is competing with Gwangju (which has a much larger budget); they open at the same time. This year the Busan organizers were upset of the fact that Korea’s president, Roh Moo Hyun, presided over the opening of the Gwangju event and designated Gwangju city as the “art capital of Korea.”
The Busan Biennale 2004 was composed of three separate yet inter-related projects: Busan Sculpture Project, Sea Art Festival and Contemporary Art Exhibition.
Frankly Sirmans gives this review of the show in Artnet:
“The 2004 Busan Biennial, more than any other big recent international show (with the possible exception of the last Documenta), feels naturally (and refreshingly) international. Vastly different esthetics from vastly different places knock up against and bounce off each other. Is it all good? No, but its better than most. This is the exhibitions strength as much as contemporary arts failure. No matter where you go when you look for art in the confines of the coterie known as the international art world, time after time, it’s the same thing in a different place.”
Among the artist in Busan: Franz Ackermann (Berlin), Eija-Liisa Ahtila (Helsinki), Darren Almond (London), Isaac Julien (London), Oleg Kulik (Moscow), Gillian Wearing (London), Yang Fudong (Beijing), Guerrilla Girls on Tour.
The 5th Gwangju biennale (Korea)
Eleanor Heartney (Art in America 2005) writes about a new idea: The biennale “featured an innovation dubbed the Viewer Participant. The v.e.s, as these figures were referred to in the catalogue and accompanying press materials, were nonartists drawn from various walks of life and assigned to collaborate in some way with a Participating Artist (P.A.).
Curators wanted a mix of people ranging from the uninitiated–a housewife from Toronto, a high-school student from Korea–to leaders in various nonart fields. The latter included such luminaries as Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Richard Rhodes, Italian activist and philosopher Antonio Negri [whose book Empire, published 2000, quickly became included as a part of art theory] and award-winning Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.”
Artists in Gwangju: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla (Cuba) – Jimmie Durham (US) – Kendell Geers (South Africa) – Richard Hamilton (UK) – Pierre Huyghe (France) – Emily Jacir (Palestine) – Magdalena Jetelova (Czech Republic) – Brian Jungen (Canada) – Anish Kapoor (India) – Daniel Pflumm (Switzerland) – – Marc Quinn (UK) – Annie Ratti (Italy) – Thomas Ruff (Germany) – Edward Ruscha (US) – -Jennifer Steinkamp (US) –
Heartney makes a summary of the two biennales:
“Taken together, the Busan and Gwangju biennials suggest both the strengths and the weaknesses of this ever more popular mode of presentation. Such collections of artworks invariably provide both emerging and more established artists a chance to prove themselves against the backdrop of the international art world. But they also encourage a herd mentality among artists, curators and critics. One barrels through these shows looking for the most striking contributions and often shortchanging works that require more time or introspection. It isn’t surprising that even the organizers of such shows often try, in their rhetoric at least, to distance themselves from the now well-established formulas. Yet it is not clear that a biennial can ever be anything but a festival, or even if it should try to be. In the end, for instance, though Gwangju’s Viewer Participant program opened the eyes of a small group of nonart people to contemporary art, it didn’t really change the equation between audience and artist in any significant way.”
The 5th Shanghai biennale
The theme Techniques of the Visible “focuses on the close relationship between art, science, and technology, in particular how art has revealed the interdependent social and political forces that produce and subject technology and humanity.”
Curators: Xu Jiang, Sebastian Lapez, Zheng Shengtian, Zhang Qing
Most of the artist were local; among the well known was Tania Bruguera, Cao Fei, Yang Fudong, Stan Douglas, Cindy Sherman, Bill Viola, Jeff Wall, Yoko Ono
The 4th Taipei biennale
“Entitled ‘Do You Believe in Reality?’, the 2004 Taipei Biennial responds to an urgent call. Everywhere artists, filmmakers and intellectuals are grappling with decisive transformations in contemporary society. Instead of yearning for abstractions or grandiose ideals, the forty participants in Do You Believe in Reality? see another task possible: as citizens they turn toward reflecting the reality in which we live. With their eyes wide open they welcome us to back to reality.” (Press text)
But the Taipei biennale would loose much of its prestige in the quarrel between the two curators, news that spread all over the world:
“The fourth international Taipei Biennial, held at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), closes Jan. 23 and has already become noteworthy for provocative work by well-known and emerging artists, as well as for the conflict that emerged between its curators.” (Taipei News, Dec 26th)
“…this year the biennial featured an assortment of the avant-garde classic Yoko Ono, Agn?s Varda representing the Old Europe and its problems, an installation by Raqs Media Collective from India, and a project on the living Chinese papercuts tradition in one of Chinese provinces. What seemed a well balanced approach to others, the Taiwanese curator Amy Huei-Hua Cheng found as unfair over-representation of Western art, putting the blame on her ‘arrogant’ counterpart from Belgium Barbara Vanderlinden.
The ‘scandal’ around the biennial relates to the most striking feature of contemporary art and its policy in Taiwan, namely, the coexistence of Western and Eastern elements.” (Giedr? Jankevi?i?t? in the Vilnius)
The authentic and the modern
Globalization as a main subject in art did also cause problems. One of these problems is the fact that the artists can be divided into two categories: Modern and authentic. The modern artist is simply making projects about anything, projects which are taking place in the realm of the West, or occasionally about the foreign or “the other”. Such works can of course be presented anywhere in the world at arenas for contemporary art. The modern artist is not considered being a true witness from a certain region. He is only representing modern art. The authentic artist is representing the world outside the West. The interest for these artists has been growing since the late 90s.
When the art world started to become international the authentic artists were mainly found in Eastern Europe. This is still a part of modern history about which can be made new art projects. Former Yugoslavia and Russia are possible regions for “authentic” artists. Most of the artists from these countries have become “modern”. But this is not the case with artist with a background from post-colonized countries. The art world expects them to represent their origin and be “authentic” artists.
One of the conferences arranged of Apexart (New York, Steven Rand, Ed., On cultural Influence, 2006) took place in Honolulu in 2004. Dina Ramadan from the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Culture at Columbia University brought up the question. She is from Egypt:
“…the last two years alone have seen more works by independent artists of Middle Eastern origin being showcased in international art capitals…apparent that ‘curiosity’ about these artists is restricted to their position as regional or cultural emissaries with little attention being given to them as individual artist engaged in an international art scene,”
“…it is possible to be too ‘modern,’ to be too influenced by the West…not Egyptian enough”
This was, and is, still a problem. The globalization of art reveals a certain structure. The modern West needs the newness from the exotic post-colony parts of the world. The audience can then easily observe that this art is “international”. But the problem is more complicated than that. The exotic authentic is strongest among artists who “never make it” while others like Shirin Neshat or Emily Jacir are different. These artists probably agree and positively benefit on their identity as authentic artists. When it comes to artists like Takashi Murakami or Cai Guo-Qiang it is probably correct to talk about a cultural profile which also has a backup and a market within in its own culture in Japan and China. And then pseudo-authentic artists like Chris Ofili who actually is appropriating his profile as an African artist.
Director of Artfacts Marek Claasen in Berlin in an interview 2008:
“We know for sure that the artists have been looking at Artfacts since the very beginning of the ranking system around 2004-05. They are part of a competitive environment, every artist wants to know who is getting what show – and now they are looking at the ranking and start complaining when they are not there and are proud if they leave some colleagues behind. They use us quite often to find out where they stand at the moment because there is no other way for them to find out.”
With the introduction of www.artfacts.net it became possible to measure quality in art. Artfacts is using the parameter of attention. The more attention the artists get from the art institutions the higher quality. Museum and gallery exhibitions are counted into points and the more points the better art. It is a simple and effective system to show where quality is to be found. It took some time before the art world was reluctantly willing to accept it. The mystery of art was in danger of disappearing. The ranking system cannot tell what artistic quality is but it can show what the art world prefers. Probably this is the same thing as quality: What the art world considers as quality is quality. And quality is created and manifested by confirmation. The confirmation is carried into effect when an artist is chosen for an exhibition.
Turner Prize 2004
Jeremy Deller was the winner of the Turner Prize. His main work at the exhibition at Tate Britain was Memory Bucket, a film that was produced during a residency in San Antonio, Texas and sees the artist turn his attentions on the recent history of the state. It showed the politically-loaded locations of Waco and George Bush’s hometown of Crawford. The others in the shortlist were Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell with interactive guide to Osama bin Laden’s abandoned house in Afghanistan, Yinka Shonibare’s A Masked Ball, a video based on the assassination of King Karl Gustav of Sweden in 1792, featuring the artist’s trademark allusions to colonial trade; and Turkish-born artist Kutlug Ataman’s video installation in which six people explain how they believe they have been reincarnated.
More in the art world 2004
Richard Serra made prints against President George Bush, titled Stop Bush that repeats the title exclamation in oil stick over a brutalist drawing of a hooded prisoner at Abu Ghraib.
Critical Art Ensemble
Attorney General John Ashcroft’s Department of Justice persecuted Steven Kurtz, a co-founder of the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) and an art professor at the University of Buffalo, for artworks that are critical of the biological politics of the Bush administration. On June 30, a Buffalo grand jury indicted Kurtz on four counts of mail and wire fraud, charges that each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, for possessing $256 worth of harmless bacteria whose use is restricted to scientists. Kurtz employs the material in artworks that address issues of genetic engineering in food, U.S. government germ warfare research and other questions of public policy involving biology. His collaborator, Robert Ferrell, a professor of genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, has also been indicted.
The interest for Ana Mendieta (1948-85) was rising. Whitney showed Sculpture and Performance 1972 – 1985: “Ana Mendieta’s exploration of the female body and its social and political implications through performances, sculptures, and “actions” has had a lasting impact on contemporary art. This show, a survey of fifteen years of the exiled Cuban artist’s career, includes the well-known Silueta Series, made in Iowa and Mexico from 1973 to 1980, as well as Mendieta’s sculptures and installations of the early 1980s.”
Maurizio Cattelan created a new controversy and much attention when exhibiting untitled sculpture, installed by the Fondazione Nicola Trussardi in Milans Piazza XXIV Maggio. It consisted of mannequins of three barefoot young boys hanging by their necks from a branch high up in an oak tree. A construction worker climbed the tree and cut down two of the figures less than a day later. The city removed the third mannequin.
The artists presented this year was Pipilotti Rist (36), Olaf Breunig (293), Richard Phillips (1596), Keith Tyson (777), Alex Katz (154), Monica Bonvicini (182), Urs Fischer (386), Richard Prince (88)
Again the numbers are from artfacts, March 2008.
Andrea Fraser and Institutional critique
Fraser’s Untitled was made in 2003 and shown in 2004. It is a one-hour silent video in which she has what she called “just regular sex” with an art collector who reportedly paid $20,000, “not for sex,” according to the artist, but “to make an artwork.”
“…the question I’m interested in posing is whether art is prostitution—in a metaphorical sense, of course. Is it any more prostitution because I happen to be having sex with a man than it would be if I were just selling him a piece?” (Fraser in The Brooklyn Rail)
Fraser’s work has basically been about institutional critique and she has been writing extensively on the subject. Her well known article From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique was published in Artforum Sep 2005. Here is a quotation:
“Every time we speak of the “institution” as other than “us,” we disavow our role in the creation and perpetuation of its conditions. We avoid responsibility for, or action against, the everyday complicities, compromises, and censorship—above all, self-censorship—which are driven by our own interests in the field and the benefits we derive from it. It’s not a question of inside or outside, or the number and scale of various organized sites for the production, presentation, and distribution of art. It’s not a question of being against the institution: We are the institution. It’s a question of what kind of institution we are, what kind of values we institutionalize, what forms of practice we reward, and what kinds of rewards we aspire to.”
Institutional critique has a high value in the art world. But, as pointed out by Fraser, it turns out to be the insider and not the outsider who is performing the critique. This critique is directed towards an abstract target, the institution, which is not identical with either the performer of the critique or the institution which is presenting it. These two objects can actually be identified as a space of freedom outside the art world. But the outcome is that the institutional critique becomes institutionalized.
Artnet could report: “The postwar and contemporary art department at Sothebys New York pitched a perfect game in its evening auction last night, May 12, 2004, selling all 58 lots offered for a total of $65,670,400, above the presale high estimate of $64,700,000 — a rare occurrence, to be sure. The white glove sale, as auctioneer Tobias Meyer called the 100-percent-sold event, set new auction records for 16 artists, from Clyfford Still, James Rosenquist and Ellsworth Kelly to Maurizio Cattelan, John Currin and Rachael Whiteread. Twenty-two lots sold for above $1 million, with lively bidding on almost every item.”
Art 35 Basel 2004 ”No Limits”
The Art Fair in Basel had the exhibition Art Unlimited with many well known artists (Gallery within brackets):
Marina Abramovic (Kelly), Vito Acconci (Gladstone), Pep Agut (Alvear), Miroslaw Balka (Nordenhake), Robert Barry (Meert Rihoux), Lothar Baumgarten (Fischer), Pierre Bismuth (Hécey), Cosima von Bonin (Nagel), Candice Breitz (Kaufmann Francesca), Angela Bulloch (Schipper & Krome), Marie José Burki (Nelson), Jeremy Deller, Simon Starling (Modern Institute), Marta Deskur (Starmach), Stan Douglas (Zwirner), William Eggleston (Cheim & Read), Rodney Graham, Christoph Büchel (Hauser & Wirth), Ceal Floyer (Lisson), Michel François (carlier gebauer), Lothar Hempel (Kern), Christian Jankowski (Klosterfelde), Amar Kanwar (Blum), Tadashi Kawamata (Juda), Job Koelewijn (Welters), Andres Lutz & Anders Guggisberg (Friedrich), Philippe Meste, Atelier van Lieshout (Jousse), Hans Op de Beeck (Hufkens), Finnbogi Pétursson (i8 Galleri), Sergio Prego (Lorenzo), Rob Pruitt (GBE (Modern)), Miguel Angel Ríos (Noire), Bojan Sarcevic (BQ), Mira Schendel (Millan), Jim Shaw (Bernier / Eliades), Ann-Sofi Sidén (Cobo), Penny Siopis (Goodman Gallery), Nedko Solakov (Arndt & Partner), On Kawara (Szwajcer), Günter Umberg (nächst St. Stephan), Mark Wallinger (Reynolds), Erwin Wurm (Krinzinger),
Chen Zhen and Kendell Geers (Continua).
“I went to the Basel Art Fair last year, in the Art Unlimited section, which looks very much like a biennale, I read the official statement there, and they were saying something like ‘Art Unlimited: An exhibition with no limits. No budget limits. No space limits. No curatorial limits.’ This means that today, curators are no longer the people who open up the frontiers. We are the people that must create frontiers for the voracity of the market and the sponsors.”
(Rosa Martinez, interview Artnet, 2005)
An art fair and a biennale are getting more similar. The difference is still obvious, art fairs are undoubtedly commercial and they do not use curator’s statement. But still the big art fairs have an economic potential to show new works. In this sense they can be faster than the biennales and thus exhibit new art.