via John Perrault's Artopia, April 26, 2009:
Is the New Museum Slipping?
The biennial problem is perennial. The Whitney Biennial has been difficult to deal with for years, so now as punishment for our art sins, the New Museum will offer another survey of "new" art every three years. The Whitney has already complicated and partially reformed its offerings by going global, using guest curators, and even augmenting its space in '08 with an off-site venue--- the magnificent Park Avenue Armory.
But last year when I was feeling more benign I wrote:
And how many curators? Alas, this Biennial gives me the feeling of too many cooks. Only a committee could include photo-realist painter Robert Bechtle, photo-conceptualist Louise Lawler and abstract painter Mary Heilmann. There are too many lookalikes and almosts. Could this be because Henriette Huldisch and Shamim Momin, the curators of record (both Whitney staffers), were "overseen" by chief curator Donna De Salvo and advised by Thelma Golden, Bill Horrigan and Linda Norden?
But that was all before the fall --- the fall of the art market. Leading to? Yet another global survey. You were hoping for the end of hegemony?
No, the NuMu is not slipping. It has very little to slip from. Last year Massimiliano Gioni's "After Nature" was o.k., but little else has been up to snuff. True, galleries have sprouted around the ungainly stacked cubes of its fake building, but that has been the NuMu's only real success: real estate.
And we all know where that's going.
So why bother trying to copy The Biennial? The Whitney is NuMu director Lisa Phillips' alma mater and the institution that spawned Marcia Tucker's New Museum (by giving her the boot).
More Boring Than the Buddha
The NuMu "The Generational" has an attention-getting but foolish extended title: "Younger Than Jesus", which seems to mean that all the 50 artists from 25 different countries are younger than The Christ when He was crucified. I find this truly offensive. And I am not even a Christian.
Will future titles be equally insulting? How about: More Boring Than the Buddha; Bossier Than Moses; Louder Than Luther; Madder Than Mohammad; More Baffling Than Madame Blavatsky?
The Whitney Biennial of '06 had a title too: the irrelevant, but perhaps anti-cinema "Day for Night." Since the Whitney insists upon including established artists with the newbies, thus pleasing and puffing up the latter, the downtown Whitney wannabe can't do that. On the other hand, the Whitney Biennial has, as already mentioned, gone global, the NuMu Triennial must be global too.
Well, yes, art is indeed global. But so is late capitalism and so is tuberculosis. In spite of transnational trends like the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Enlightenment, and then Modernism, it was once thought nations were little, much cherished pockets of stylistic development, language tics, and even aesthetic surprise. Not so anymore.
But wait. I take it back. Currently art is not global; but art education is. The stress-free Generational feels like, looks like, smells like any MFA thesis show that one might happen upon anywhere in the world.
Even the three curators (Lauren Cornell, Massimiliano Gioni, and Laura Hoptman) cannot make head nor tales of their 50 choices, selected from 500 artists, all born after 1976 and - hold onto your seat belts---nominated by "150 curators, writers, teachers, artists, critic, and bloggers worldwide." This methodology must have sounded really clever in a curatorial meeting or graduate seminar, but the results are dismal. Artists over 33 never innovate? Matisse's late works are his best. And how old was Duchamp when he finished Etant donné?
Furthermore, you are asking for it when you call something "The Generational" and the demographics don't add up to anything really important. Even the curators can't explain what's going on.
If you think the 500-word labels in the exhibition are mind-boggling, here are some pungent quotes from the catalog essays, each title in large letters. The curators herewith reveal that they have set themselves not an art problem, but a packaging problem.
Now it may be that because of the economy we will have fewer galleries next fall. Chelsea will be a ghost town. Soon we really may need biennials and triennials and institutional salons in order to see any art at all.
Some sages, nevertheless, have opined that even if all the galleries keep their doors open, we will still need these turgid, pointless, blockbuster surveys as excuses to get together.
But can't we have parties without bothering about the art? Aren't we all on FaceButt? Can't we just watch videos on YouTub? Can't we complain about art without the Whitney and the New Museum? We do not need either to learn about new art. There is no new art!
[read on... all the way to the bottom, where you can take in the Artopia Manifesto]