Billed as “the first large-scale international exhibition to be held in Japan,” the Yokohama Triennale, titled “Mega-Wave,” seems to find itself in the same paradoxical position so many international art shows now find themselves in: The more it tries to establish itself as a must-visit destination, the less you thrill at the prospect of spending fifteen or eighteen hours in flight to get there. Its shiny list of well-recognized artists and curators, carefully designed to generate interest and critical attention, makes it feel, in fact, too much like other large international festivals.
Like last year's “Media City,” held in Seoul, the show seems geared more to introduce contemporary art to a local audience than to offer up a Japanese vision to an international one. The roster of 110 artists, including Maurizio Cattelan, Pipilotti Rist, William Kentridge, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Krsysztof Wodiczko, Joseph Grigely, and Zhang Huan, and a twelve-member international committee that includes De Appel's Saskia Bos, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and Francesco Bonami, are certainly not unexpected choices. The work on view is presented in seven venues, ranging from the ultra-modern, sleek Pacifico Yokohama Exhibition Hall to an old, rather run-down-looking warehouse called, simply, Red Brick Warehouse No. 1. These venues are complimented by a handful of outdoor installations, including previously shown works such as Freight Train, 2000, a modified box car by Yoko Ono, and an ongoing installation of mirror balls by Yayoi Kusama started in 1966. There is also a fireworks display orchestrated by Cai Guo-Qiang, to take place near Yokohama's Rinko Park (perhaps a subtle reference to philosopher Theodor Adorno's famous comparison of art to fireworks?).
“Our aim is to transcend the conventional framework of art and boldly promote greater exchange and dialogue between a broader range of fields, including science, philosophy, and other areas of art,” write the four artistic directors of the Triennale: Shinji Kohmoto, senior curator at the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto; Nobuo Nakamura, director of the Center for Contemporary Art in Kitakyushu; Fumio Nanjo, the Japanese Commissioner for the 1997 Venice Biennale; and Akira Tatehata, professor at Tama Art University in Tokyo. The statement echoes the words of Yuko Hasegawa, curator of this year's Istanbul Biennial, and Luigi Settembrini, director of the Bienal de Valencia, which made its debut in June.
There are, however, a few surprises in the mix, such as Indian mixed-media artist Anita Dube, the quasi-legendary Australian performance and Net artist Stelarc, and Brazilian-American biotech artist Eduardo Kac (whose Hotlist appears in Artforum in September). With the addition of the fashion design team Viktor and Rolf from the Netherlands, known for their dramatic, architectonic products, to the lineup, this variety of “all-inclusive” curating has reemerged in several biennials and triennials of late.
“Mega-Wave” is on view from September 2 through November 11.
The fall art season has yet to begin, but Beatrix Ruf is already working at the Kunsthalle Zürich, where she officially replaces founding director and curator Bernhard “Mendes” Bürgi in September. Ruf, head of the Kunsthaus Glarus since 1998, was chosen last year to succeed Bürgi, whose nomination as director of the Kunstmuseum Basel caused a dispute between city officials and the museum hiring committee (see Steven Henry Madoff’s “Hire’s Grounds” and “Smooth Move” in Artforum, February and April 2001, respectively). By comparison, Ruf’s appointment to the Kunsthalle Zürich was a more subdued affair, as was the selection of her successor, Nadia Schneider, who takes over at the Kunsthaus Glarus after having organized several projects for Helmhaus in Zurich.
Ruf, who has shown artists as diverse as Monica Bonvicini and Peter Doig, acknowledges that Bürgi is a hard act to follow. “Mendes created an international reputation for the Kunsthalle,” she explains, “and one can’t gamble that away; it has to be valued and taken seriously.” The move to Zurich also brings the challenge of curating for a new audience. “Of course, the expectations are very different here than in Glarus, which is out in the country,” says Ruf. “Zurich is demanding because it’s a very charged context.”
Despite coming from a smaller institution, Ruf appears to be stepping into her new position with a keen awareness of how the entire Swiss contemporary art scene has changed in the past decade. “We’ve always had collectors for international contemporary art, but to become acquainted with new work, even work by Swiss artists, they had to go outside of Switzerland. Now, it happens inside the country.” The new awareness of contemporary art has also led to new conflicts and confusion, especially about the relation between private financing and public culture. “Most people don’t realize to what extent public institutes are funded by the private sector,” Ruf explains, adding that the Kunsthalle Zürich was created by a private Kunstverein (art society) and receives the majority of its funding from the private and commercial sectors. “With increased private financing of the culture industry,” explains Ruf, “it’s important to renegotiate the social contract between public and private. What does one expect from culture? And how should one support it?”
Ruf hopes to formulate some answers at the Kunsthalle Zürich by organizing lectures, artists’ talks, and public discussions which, she claims, "cannot be commercialized.” For her first exhibition, Ruf has invited the Berlin-based artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset to create a performance work during upcoming renovations at the Kunsthalle in November. Once the dust has settled, a selection of their sculptural projects will be on display throughout December. Next year, one can look forward to an exhibition of paintings by Richard Prince, a choice that suggests a commitment on Ruf’s part to closing the generational gap in contemporary art. “I believe that the Kunsthalle can show positions that have nothing to do with birth dates,” she explains. “Artists don’t have to be born after 1970 in order to take part in the contemporary discourse.”
Les Rencontres internationales de la photographie, the annual international photography festival in Arles, France, closed last week with little to celebrate: mixed critical reception, weak attendance, and fiscal problems. Yet the festival’s future appears to be secure since François Barré was recently named president by Hervé Schiavetti, the newly elected mayor of Arles. Schiavetti, who would have normally been responsible for the job, couldn’t have selected a better replacement.
The sixty-two-year-old Barré has held top cultural positions in France over the past decade, from deputy for the arts at the national Ministry of Culture to president of the Centre Georges Pompidou. From 1996, Barré acted as director for architecture and heritage at the Ministry of Culture until he was recruited last August by François Pinault to collaborate on the much-anticipated opening of the Fondation Pinault, the new museum for contemporary art on Île Seguin in Boulogne-Billancourt that will house Pinault’s ever-expanding private collection.
Speaking in an interview in Le Monde, Barré announced a series of changes for the photography festival at Arles that are intended to give it the same status as the festivals at Cannes, Avignon, and Aix-en-Provence. Barré intends to abandon the annual theme, add a grand prize, and give the next director a tenure of five years instead of the current one year, with the possibility of one renewal. “Five years is a good period of time to cut one’s path,” Barré explains. “The future director does not have to be a photographer, nor strictly an administrator but should be a prominent figure—and not necessarily French—who knows the whole field of photography.”
The new director, who will be named in September, is not the only change. Barré envisions three new areas for development. First, he hopes to create greater links with the École Nationale de la Photographie, the French national photography school (opened at Arles on account of the festival), by adding a doctoral program, an annual colloquium, and an exhibition with other European schools. “The school will have a real responsibility in the festival,” he adds. “The students will no longer be just little assistants.” Barré also intends to take advantage of the current boom in the market for photography by inviting both collectors and gallerists to Arles and establishing an auction.
As if these activities were not enough, Barré also hopes to take advantage of technology to extend the borders of photography and its uses. “I’m convinced that technology is the principle mode of access to culture today,” he explains. “We’ll explore photography as a technology, especially in its relation to cinema.” Barré has few kind words to say about French museums’s relationship to the medium. “They remain in the fine arts tradition and continue to hang photographs near the restrooms.” If Barré has his way, not only the festival at Arles but also photography will have a new day in France.