Friday, June 12, 2009

Venice - The 53rd Biennale

Michael Kimmelman writes in last Wednesday’s New York Times.

“Organized by Daniel Birnbaum, this 53rd version of the venerable Biennale is tidy, disciplined, cautious and unremarkable. If any show can be said to reflect a larger state of affairs in art now, this one suggests a somewhat dull, deflated contemporary art world, professionalized to a fault, in search of a fresh consensus. It has prompted the predictable cooing from wishful insiders, burbling vaguely about newfound introspection and gravity.

The Biennale’s ostensible theme is “making worlds.” Mr. Birnbaum has explained in a news release that this means “an exhibition driven by the aspiration to explore worlds around us as well as worlds ahead,” which hardly explains anything at all, of course.... Mr. Birnbaum has also said his show is “about possible new beginnings,” to which end he has included works by the Gutai group, Japanese avant-gardists from the 1950s and ’60s; Lygia Pape, the Brazilian artist who came to prominence around the same time; and Gordon Matta-Clark, the short-lived American iconoclast of the 1970s. The art crowd gladly talked them all up, as if they were news.

But the Biennale is meant to be a survey of new art, and while conscientious young artists now dutifully seem to raise all the right questions about urbanism, polyglot society and political activism, their answers look domesticated and already familiar. They look like other art-school-trained art, you might say, which is exactly what Pape and Matta-Clark and the Gutai group didn’t want their work to look like, never mind that the art market ultimately found a way to make a buck off what they did, as it does nearly everything, eventually."

Makes me feel just a little better about being stuck in Auckland in winter.....

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