Grand Tour 2007

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Jenn Stein and Okwui Enwezor outside of the Shloss Wilhelmshohe, documenta 12, Kassel, Germany

I am back again from across the pond.  Unfortunately, I was not able to post anything while I was there because a) internet connections were few and far between and b) I had a total of about 10 minutes the entire trip to check my email, we were so busy.  But, it was an amazing trip.  Follow the link for a chronological breakdown.

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Isa Genzken's work at the German Pavilion, Venice Biennale

Venice was amazing.  The biennale however was a bit uneven.  The most interesting pieces for me were Isa Genzken's work at the German pavilion, and my personal favorite, Hyungkoo Lee's work at the Korean pavilion, which included archaeological remains of American cartoon characters.  Sofie Calle's work in the French pavilion, where she had over 100 women re-interpret a Dear Jane email that she had received, got the most discussion from our group, mostly centered around her production.

The African pavilion too received a lot of discussion, as it was the only pavilion included in the biennale not as a specific country, but as a continent, reflecting some of the colonial perspectives that are still prevalent in the biennale.  Also of issue was the work being that of a single collector, and the inclusion of Andy Warhol's work in the African pavilion. 

I won't really go into Italian pavilion, because enough has been said about it, and Robert Stor's comment that "the artwork speaks for itself."  I will just stay that some of the work was good, but that it was curatorial mess.  And no artwork speaks for itself; that's just curatorial laziness.

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Walking with Carlos Basualdo (who curated the last Venice Biennale and co-curated documenta 11 with Okwui) to a lecture with him and Okwui at the University of Venice's art school

A lot of the outlying shows and pavilions were great, including a Joseph Bueys/Mathew Barney show at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.  It was interesting to finally see the two of these artists together.  While it was not a very substantive showing, it did give a good starting point for thought and discussion.  But unfortunately for Barney, Bueys comes across as the more substantial of the two. 

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Hyungkoo Lee's work at the Korean pavilion

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Hyungkoo Lee's work at the Korean pavilion, "Tom and Jerry"

The African pavilion too received a lot of discussion, as it was the only pavilion included in the biennale not as a specific country, but as a continent, reflecting some of the colonial perspectives that are still prevalent in the biennale.  Also of issue was the work being that of a single collector, and the inclusion of Andy Warhol's work in the African pavilion. 

I won't really go into Italian pavilion, because enough has been said about it, and Robert Stor's comment that "the artwork speaks for itself."  I will just stay that some of the work was good, but that it was curatorial mess.  And no artwork speaks for itself; that's just curatorial laziness.

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Paul McCarthy sculpture outside of Art Unlimited at Art Basel

Next up was Basel, Switzerland for Art Basel.  All I am going to say is that Art Basel is the largest art fair in the world, where everything is for sale, and the work reflects that.  The unanimous consent of the group was that it was fun, but nothing that we want to be a part of.  But we did see a good showing of Jasper John's early work at the Kunstmuseum Basel, as well as a simply amazing Robert Gober show at the Schaulager.

Documenta was by far the best of the exhibitions, even if it was a weaker documenta.  The advantage of documenta is that it operates under number of common platforms, or leitmotifs.  This way, the work as a whole has cohesiveness that the others exhibitions don't, such as Venice where it is broken up by geography and nations. 

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Okwui and Roger Buergel at our sit down

That being said, there was some problems with the show.  The connections being dawn between the work and the leitmotifs, especially the education leitmotif, was thin.  The choice of venues too, were somewhat puzzling, especially the Aue-Pavillon and the Neue Museum.    But the highlight of the trip was being able to sit down with the curator of documenta 12, Roger Buergel and discuss these issues with him, along with Okwui (who curated documenta 11).

Talking outside of the Aue-Pavillon, documenta 12

Munster was next, and that was a bit of a disappointment.  The work was scattered around the city, which would not have been that much of an issue, had it not been for the fact that the work was not labeled well, and the maps provided did not help either.  So, despite our best efforts, we only saw a hand full of the work there.  But we did enjoy ourselves, and had an incredibly fun day, including riding bikes around town.

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Corena, Eve and Okwui trying to find the art in Munster

Our last stop was in Berlin, and I have to say that I am in love with Berlin.  The level of integration of the arts into the culture there is astounding, and incredibly welcoming, especially coming from the States.  There were so many galleries there to see, including Kunst-werke and the Contemporary Fine Arts gallery (which had an incredible Dash Snow show up, that was almost entirely sold out).  I want to try and make it back next year for the Berlin Biennale.

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Our last dinner in Berlin.  To Okwui's left is Uta Meta Bauer, who was one of his co-curators for documenta 11.  Not pictured is Marcos, another of his co-curators who joined us, and the artist Thomas Demand.

There was a lot more that happened, amazing people that we met, but this is the long and short of it.  It was amazing time, that unfortunately I will have to wait another ten years to take part in again. 

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Waiting for the U1, Berlin