Rome

Quadriennale d’Arte

Palazzo dei Congressi

Imagine a sideshow tent in an amusement park and a barker calling, “Visit the house of the Mermaids, the Cat-men, and the Monkey-women. You’ll discover the secret marvels of nature. The chill of the unbelievable!” Rome’s XI Quadriennale d’Arte (which by a scornful stroke of fate was mounted this year in the vicinity of the city’s largest amusement park) could similarly have announced, “Visit the biggest art show in town. You’ll find the greatest artists of the last 30 years. You’ll learn the true story of contemporary art!”

Nothing could have been less true. The disappointment one experienced while viewing the Quadriennale was the same as that felt upon entering a so-called “freak show.” There was no fantasy ”different" from those we could have imagined by ourselves. Rather than a roster of great names, it was really a show of great numbers, a bid for inclusion in the Guinness Book of

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