Hedgehogger no 9

The Hedgehogger is the unofficial magazine for Moss Biennale Momentum 2006. The exhibition opens on Saturday the 2nd of September.

Art Biennales for everyone?
Martin Schibli

This text is based on a research on 25 art biennales that took place from the 15th Oct 2005 until the 15th Oct 2006. The material presents where artists are born, where thy live and which art school they have intended. App 1500 artists were participating at the 25 biennales. The research was conducted by the curator and art critic Martin Schibli.

The art biennale Momentum, in Moss, Norway, the fourth event, is just one of the many biennales that has started since the mid 90ies, and more are starting. There is always a biennale that takes place somewhere in the world. Before, it was a merit to participate in a biennale, but now there are thousands of artists hat participates at biennales every year. Is this an argument that contemporary art has become a global matter? Hardly, if one looks at the result of the conducted research.

Most curators want their biennales to look international. To succeed the curators needs artist from every corner of the world. And if you look at the place of birth among the artist there is certain diversity. But several of the artists left their country in an early age, and moved to a western hemisphere. The artworld often presume that the artist is working on examining their cultural background even if they don’t remember it. The artworld is very often caught in exotism.

Another way to look to look at the diversity is to study the information ”the artist lives and works in…” Every ten artist is living in New York. Other popular cities among biennale artists are Berlin, Paris and London. Its understandable, the curators, in their hunt for new artists comes more often to this cities there it is likely to find something interesting, than taking their chances in a smaller city without any known artists.

One could also look at which art education the artist attended. In fact, 40% of the biennale artists are educated in USA, UK or Germany. The most popular school is Rijksakedemie in Amsterdam. The top 10 art schools have educated every fifth biennale artist. London, there every tenth artists are educated, has 4 schools at the top 10.

The awful truth is that the biennale is not at all diversified or any representation of different cultures and countries. A more important way to produce a biennale is to invite artists that could be presented as new, interesting and fulfil the idea of a global and conscious artworld. It should be art that one could write theoretical about.

Countries with a more modernist view, like the Philippines, that after 500 years of colonialisation has an tradition within art, i.e. there is a lot of public works in Manila, has very few artists at the biennales. They are stuck in a modernist tradition, and for that kind of art, there is no room in the biennales. It doesn’t matter there the biennale takes place; its idea is based on a western concept of art.

It is worth noticing that China has become a strong country in contemporary art. This is a trend that could be permanent the next decades, due to a high domestic demand for contemporary Chinese art. The explanation for this is the strong connection between the existence of contemporary art and the use of a market economy,

The Nordic countries manage quit well, Denmark (place 11) and Sweden (place 12) are doing well within the biennale culture with a market share around 1,5 – 2 % each. But the success is concentrated to Copenhagen and Stockholm. The Danish artists are educated at the high ranked Royal Academy, and the Swedish has attended konstfack (applied arts) or mejan (Royal University Collage of Fine Arts). Norway and Finland is a little bit down on the list.

In one way, it shouldn’t matter that the art biennales is produced from a contemporary western context, not even a problem that the selection comes from a very narrow group of artist depending on schools, there they live and personal network within the art system. But the problem is that the contemporary wants to present themselves as democratic and having a cultural awareness and open to other cultures and backgrounds. A forefront in the Development of the society. A Dream based on an art for everyone. But not even what should be an easy task about he difference between men and woman participating at the biennale is something the artworld has manages, despite Guerrilla Girls, art-critics and that feminist theory been around in the artworld for quit some time. Only 29,5 % of the last year biennale artists were woman.

The research was conducted in the summer of 2006. The research is mainly based on the information that the biennales present themselves. Each participating artist represents 1 p. If an artist is participating at two biennales he / she were counted as two artists.

Editorial Staff: Martin Schibli and Lars Vilks

Lars Vilks

Lars Vilks was the artist behind Nimis and Arx, and the Founder and State Secretary of Ladonia. He also served as Editor Emeritus the Ladonia Herald.

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