It’s telling that we’re getting journalism about the differences between biennial curation and art fairs.
As if we need to be reminded that they’e not the same.
A recent Art Newspaper article (“Curators turn East but Art Basel looks to the US: Documenta, Manifesta, La Triennale and the Kiev Biennale strike a different tone to the art market”) compares and contrasts art fairs with international exhibitions. The piece offers up a lot of refreshing stats and quotes for those of us that are concerned about institutional coziness with the buying and selling of art, but a publication for art insiders, such as The Art Newspaper, shouldn’t need to show us reporting on how fairs and biennials are “different animals.”
The article still does provide interesting analysis on the disparities in what’s being shown at Art Basel and the big international exhibitions. If you’re a “white American male artist under the age of 45,” its author writes, “[t]he odds of getting into an international survey of contemporary art in Europe right now are stacked against you.”
Is this about scholarship’s aversion to the mainstream? This is likely, but Documenta, Manifesta, La Triennale, and the Kiev Biennale “present a vision of the world that focuses on countries at the centre of recent political upheavals or on the fringes of Western awareness,” the author writes. (The art market rarely deals in works made in reaction to current events.) Curators of serial international exhibitions have a duty to show us what’s going on in the world, and a lot of art is being made in response to the Arab Spring and other global political phenomenons. Leave the scholarship and curation on what’s popular the art market to the Whitney Biennial.