Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reading the Tea Leaves

The Summer of Art has opened and the reviews are pouring in. Most of them have a tinge of finality to them : "The beginning of the end?" could be a headline for any number of them, but there's no mass consensus on what exactly is ending.

There's been much talk about the future of news in which your personalized version will be cut-and-pasted from a wide range of sources, with journalists contributing entire sections uncredited to a central pool of news, so that you the consumer will read a seamless, tailor-made account of events. In the spirit of that vision, here's my own grand, totally contradictory summary of the Summer of Art, as collated and shamelessly edited for maximum confusion (just the way it's all settling in my head) from the reviews I've read, revealing nothing so much perhaps as my need for psychotropic refreshments:

The great European summer of art (the Venice Biennale, Art Basel, ­Documenta in Kassel and Sculpture Project in Münster) may be a dream for art-lovers, but is a test for the budgets and staff time available to cash-strapped museums. Even before [our] team left London and New York, there were rumours that some museums might not make it to all four events. And with Venice every two years, Documenta every five and Münster every ten, there was always a risk that the annual Art Basel fair might be the one that was skipped, at least by patrons’ groups. Javier Peres, of Peres Projects at Liste, confirmed: “A lot of museum curators thought that they had to do the intellectual thing, and that means Venice and Documenta."

Coming hot on the heels of the two biggest curated exhibitions on the art-world calendar -- the Venice Biennale and Documenta 12 -- the high quality of Art Basel is sobering news. Art Basel blows both of those shows out of the water. In a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung titled "The Better Biennale," art critic Rose-Maria Gropp suggests that for art lovers, Art Basel leaves hardly a desire unfulfilled. "There is in Basel more concentrated strength than in the Italian lagoon," she claims.

And despite all the talk about booming business earlier in the week, the fair is far from being sold out. Sure, some dealers have sold everything and have even begun re-hanging, but others, a lot more than I had expected, still have plenty of stuff they’ll be taking home with them. Many dealers complained to me about collectors reserving work and then changing their minds.

However,
the entire 52nd Venice Biennale—the national pavilions in the Giardini, the Arsenale, and the various exhibitions in the palazzi—breathes the air of the times, sometimes tragic, sometimes funerary. It is generalized, whatever the continent, the generation or the artists. . . . It gives the Biennale, which is so often confused, tonality and coherence. The work of artistic director Robert Storr is a success; his Biennale is one of most interesting of the past decade. Robert Storr's show is well executed. But one could also say: undistinctive. Waste dumps full of testimonies to correctness are punctuated by fairlike rides.

Documenta 12 is one of the strangest art exhibitions you’re likely to see. Containing over 150 artists, sprawling through five different buildings in Kassel, Germany, the show has nary a white cube in sight. But, overall, I give it a net positive. I came back exhausted and depressed from Documenta, the sprawling exhibition of international modern art that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. The artistic directors this year are the freelance curator Roger Buergel and his art historian wife Ruth Noack, and between them they have managed to stage the single worst art exhibition I have ever seen anywhere, ever.


Well that settles it then.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous David said...

...between them they have managed to stage the single worst art exhibition I have ever seen anywhere, ever.

That's quite an accomplishment! Why do you give it a net positive?

6/20/2007 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm schizophrenic like that, I guess.

6/20/2007 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

computer says yes
:P

6/20/2007 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

There's never been a consensus to anything in the art world. Why should there be one here? Besides, the Rashomon view of things keeps any one critical or reportorial voice from becoming too powerful.

6/20/2007 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My opinion. With the exception of the critical all-stars mentioned in previous posts critics do not have power over anything any more. Gallery owners, auction houses, collectors, board members, and curators have all the power, and a few fortunate artists (thank goodness). Please don't lump non-all-star critics in with these true power brokers.

E.G.

6/20/2007 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

so miami basil is different fro the Basil - funny because you know, what if both fairs has the smae art?

Personally I'd have my art fair in a place with some Pizazz like mall of america. Some malls have a full pool with wave tank and you don't even have to go outside until your limo pulls up to take you to your jet!

but you have to worry about cross branding with Hot Topic, Orange Julius and Foot Locker.

6/21/2007 01:36:00 AM  

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