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PRINT September 1995

LETTERS FROM VENICE

Jean Clair’s “Identity and Alterity”

JEAN CLAIR’S EXHIBITION “Identity and Alterity: Figures of the Body 1895–1995” is definitely the big attraction in this year’s Venice Biennale, which, though it celebrates the institution’s centennial, is otherwise not very distinctive. Clair has chosen his works with obvious care and thought, and has installed them well. On this centenary occasion, and at this moment close to the end of the 20th century, much of the selection seems intended to suggest an overview of the Modern artistic age; this task alone would be fascinating and ambitious. The visitor quickly sees, however, that Clair has actually set his goals much higher.

Clair does not intend his exhibition as merely a summary of what has been thought about Modern art, or as a confirmation of the 20th-century canon—not at all. “Identity and Alterity” is conceived as both a result and a refutation of the tradition of the Modern. In

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