October 29, 2008

New Orleans Biennial: 81 people running around with good ideas

In the NY Times Shaila Dewan reports on "Prospect.1," the first New Orleans Biennial. Opening on November 1 and running for eleven weeks, the biennial is the largest international contemporary art festival ever organized in the United States. "Billed as the largest exhibition of contemporary art ever held on American soil, the biennial is intended to help restore the cultural vibrancy of a city that remains on its knees three years after Hurricane Katrina. With a star-filled roster of 81 artists and a projected 50,000 visitors from out of town, it may indeed bring benefits to New Orleans. But it is already clear that the arrangement has not been one-sided, and the New Orleans contribution has been rich. With its history of destruction and rebirth, artistic triumph and economic struggle, this crumpled crescent of a city provides a singular interpretive context that acts as a resonance chamber.

"Curator Dan Cameron said it's 'just 81 people running around with good ideas, and basically everyone they meet goes, Oh yeah, sure, I’ll help. It is American, but it’s no longer what we think of as American — it’s drop what you’re doing and go do what your neighbor’s doing.' This is, after all, the city of spontaneous parades. Mr. Cameron said he was careful to select artists for the first Prospect who would attract critics and collectors but were not divas whose expectations might exceed the abilities of a first-time exhibition on a shoestring budget of $3.2 million. 'I would have liked to have taken a few more risks,' Mr. Cameron said. 'Curatorially, I like high-risk situations.'" Read more.

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