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"4th International Biennial - Beau Monde: Toward a Redeemed Cosmopolitanism"
2001-07-14 until 2002-01-06
SITE Santa Fe
Santa Fe, NM, USA United States of America

This year SITE Sante Fe's International Biennial is curated by noted art historian, essayist and critic Dave Hickey. This exhibtion features works by over 27 artists and includes painting, sculpture, video film and multi-media installations. Dave Hickey states - I begin this project without any preconceived notion of what a beau monde, or a beautiful world, might be, only with a confirmed confidence that most artists have their own ideas about it--their own vision of how a beau monde might look--and that this vision is somehow embodied in their work.

Mr Hickey continues -

For the SITE Santa Fe 2001 Biennial, I plan to mount an exhibition entitled Beau Monde: Toward a Redeemed Cosmopolitanism. My task in mounting this exhibition will be to create a confluence of such concrete visions--a melting pot in which nothing melts, in which works of art from around the world, experienced in relation to one another in a space designed for them, will invest the elusive idea of a beau monde with new specificity and complexity, new meaning and resonance. The exhibition will come first, in other words. Meanings will arise as a consequence, since what I have in mind is not an ideological point that I wish to prove, but an exhibition that I want to see, and hope that others might, as well--a small beau monde, a place unto itself, informed by the complexity of global culture at the millennium.

Mounting the exhibition that I want to see requires redesigning the priorities of international exhibitions, like the SITE Santa Fe biennials, as they have evolved over the last 30 years. In the now-traditional biennial format, a neutral, international-modernist, factory-kunsthalle space (concrete floors, white walls, industrial ceilings) is installed with site-specific, regional artworks theoretically informed by a critical rhetoric that insists upon the primacy of the local, the imperatives of group identity, and the ineluctable logic of historical necessity. As a consequence, most of these international exhibitions may be more properly described as multiregional exhibitions in which the only international element is the prevalence of post-minimalist aesthetics. Moreover, as these multiregional internationals have evolved, their appeal and function has become increasingly professional, and the secular museum visitor gradually deprioritized. Today, such exhibitions are essentially trade shows for the curators of museums and kunsthalles the world over, who arrive at the site in search of internationally certified art installations to fill out their exhibition schedules.

I have no quarrel with exhibitions that serve this necessary function or with sociological exhibitions of multiregional, post-minimal art. I am just not that sort of curator. My curatorial virtues are concrete and hands-on: I know how to look and I remember what I see. I have seen a lot of art and my enthusiasms are catholic. In the past I have designed spaces and installed them with dissimilar works of art so that each work may be seen to its best advantage. More specifically, I believe that one's aim, when working as a curator in a public space, is to create art lovers, not to impress one's fellow professionals with expertise. As a consequence, I aspire to mount an exhibition that is variously interesting rather than generally relevant--an exhibition whose visibility will empower the general public while challenging the professional art world as well.

With the aid of Graft Design (a Los Angeles-based design firm), I plan to design a complex, coherent exhibition hall composed of interlocking spaces that are physically (not iconographically) evocative of various regional cultural milieus (Mediterranean, Japanese, Western American, Northern European etc.), then install within them singular works of art, which, rather than demonstrating the isolated (and often abject) integrity of specific regional and cultural identities, celebrate the global field of overlapping and interfused idiomatic expression--the virtuoso accommodation of one cultural idiom to another that constitutes the very definition of cosmopolitanism.

To achieve this goal, I plan to invest the artistic population of Beau Monde with length as well as breadth. Over the last 20 years, a great deal of valiant and successful effort has been expended to enrich the art discourse by expanding the ethnic, regional, and gender diversity of exhibiting artists and of the subjects they address. This effort has been so successful that, today, any selection of serious contemporary artists reflects this diversity as a matter of course. Unfortunately, in my view, this diversity has too often been achieved at the expense of stylistic and generational diversity. In Beau Monde, I would like to correct this almost inadvertent brand of censorship by including artists from as many generations as possible, working in a variety of modern and postmodern styles. In this way, I hope to reflect the actual circumstances of day-to-day contemporary art-making and dramatize the tides of artistic influence and reaction as they manifest themselves temporally as well as geographically.

Dave Hickey
August 2000

IMAGE:
Photo: Jeff Burton
Tattoo: Gajin Fujita
Model: Corina Van de Vyvere


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