PRINT September 2013

Fall Exhibitions

50 shows worldwide

Three times a year Artforum looks ahead to the coming season. The following survey previews fifty shows opening around the world between September and December.

Gilda Mantilla and Raimond Chaves, Isla (Island), 2009, video, color, silent, 5 minutes 49 seconds. From the 9th Mercosul Biennial.

12TH BIENNALE DE LYON, September 12, 2013–January 5, 2014; 9TH MERCOSUL BIENNIAL, September 13–November 10; 13TH ISTANBUL BIENNIAL, September 14–November 10; 5TH MOSCOW BIENNALE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, September 19–October 20; 2013 CARNEGIE INTERNATIONAL, October 5, 2013–March 15, 2014; SINGAPORE BIENNALE 2013, October 26, 2013–February 16, 2014; PERFORMA 13, November 1–November 24

WITHOUT SO MUCH as a moment’s notice since the launch of the Fifty-Fifth Venice Biennale, more than half a dozen major, large-scale group exhibitions open on four continents this fall, including some of the most long-standing and some of the newest such presentations in the world. Together, these shows represent a matrix of the various forms and functions of the exhibition today, as curators respond to—and operate within—vastly different cultural, political, and economic contexts.

The Carnegie International is the second-oldest exhibition of its kind, initiated in 1896 by Andrew Carnegie in order to bring the “old masters of tomorrow” to Pittsburgh. This year’s exhibition, following Douglas Fogle’s “Life on Mars” in 2008, is cocurated by Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski, and features a diverse, even idiosyncratic, roster of thirty-five artists and collectives from nineteen countries, including Pennsylvania-based Transformazium, Japanese architectural group Tezuka, and the Bidoun Library. For the first time since Lynne Cooke and Mark Francis helmed the show in 1991, the exhibition will take place partly off-site, with artists already engaging with local communities before the official start of the International via a series of talks held at a space in an apartment in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

In Brazil, the Ninth Mercosul Biennial represents a similar effort to interface with the public, with Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy conceiving of the show, titled “Weather Permitting,” as a platform for dialogue between artists and the community in Porto Alegre. During its run, Sofía Hernandez and her team of curators will stage pedagogical public programs and workshops, and will commission a series of collaborations between artists and local businesses—all intended to explore three potential roles of the artist in the public sphere: collaborator, mediator, and social outcast.

This year’s Singapore Biennale, “If the World Changed,” engages “the local” more broadly. Established in 2006 and operating within the institutional framework of the Singapore Art Museum, the biennial is turning to an extensive curatorial team—a total of twenty-seven cocurators—as a means of avoiding disproportionate focus on art-world centers and to represent adequately some of the many diverse art scenes throughout Asia. In another indication of the exhibition’s democratic imperative and regional focus, the entire list of Asia-based artists was selected via an open call through the biennial’s website.

Taking a more established route, the Fifth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, “More Light,” taps a single veteran curator, Catherine de Zegher, who served as a codirector of the Eighteenth Biennale of Sydney last year and here addresses the theme of the temporality of globalization. The majority of the one hundred or so artists will be hosted at the Moscow Manege, though the biennial will also be accompanied, Venice style, by a large number of satellite exhibitions and programs.

If de Zegher is known for her rigorous engagement with history, the Twelfth Biennale de Lyon appears to be focused on looking forward—generating, as in previous editions, the production of new site-specific pieces. Curated by Gunnar B. Kvaran, the show deals with the theme of narrative and fiction in art and features some seventy artists, including well-known names such as Jeff Koons, Robert Gober, Matthew Barney, and Yoko Ono, brought together with up-and-comers such as Jonathas de Andrade, Paulo Nazareth, Petra Cortright, and Helen Marten. RoseLee Goldberg’s Performa, meanwhile, returns to New York City for its fifth edition. The three-week-long performance-art biennial will span more than thirty venues across the city, with new commissions by Paweł Althamer, Rosa Barba, Subodh Gupta, and others.

Finally, the Thirteenth Istanbul Biennial, with the somewhat inexplicable title “Mom, Am I Barbarian?,” organized by Fulya Erdemci, will focus generally on “the public domain as a political forum.” This theme was announced in January, months before the unrest in Turkey this past spring, and at this time it remains to be seen how those events will shape the curatorial premise or the organization of the biennial itself. In any case, the exhibition will undoubtedly be one of the more memorable in recent years, as the backdrop of protests and subsequent crackdowns in the city’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park will call for the show to serve—whether it intends to or not—as a real test of its own premise, a case study of the ways in which art can function in contested public sites.

If the biennial became the prevailing format for large-scale international group exhibitions in the 1990s, and if that format has been examined, questioned, and criticized ad infinitum during the first decade of the twenty-first century, the risk of global homogeneity remains. Yet the range of curatorial diversity within the framework of the megashow has been greatly expanded, and the exhibitions opening this fall seem to all move confidently into the future. While avoiding excessive self-reflexivity or experimentation, these shows reveal a general willingness to respond and adapt to the topography of the local, thereby resisting a return to conservative modes.

—Jens Hoffmann