She’s the Wonder Woman of the French contemporary art world.
Christine Macel (born in 1969) is chief curator at the Centre Pompidou and this year she was the artistic director of the biggest, most newsworthy contemporary art event in the world, the Venice Biennale or as the PR of the event asked me to write it , La Biennale di Venezia.
She selected 120 artists for the international pavillon show, most of whom were not hugely famous.
But against the odds, this edition of the Biennale managed to set an attendance record ever with a total number of 615 000 visitors.
Why? Here is her analysis
-But first she tells us how she feels post Biennale:
– And what she has learned from this experience:
The challenge for this Art Biennale was to make sure the artists came first. I set up round-table talks, weekly public discussions with artists, and broadcast films online to show how they work.
I feel this way of sharing
the information about the artists’ practices has been one of the reasons why the event was such a huge public success.
The Art Biennale’s old formula
The idea of national pavilions with 85 countries presenting their national artists has been widely criticized, but it is precisely that which has drawn a significant audience to the show since the 1990s. We mustn’t erase history by getting rid of the national pavilions but we must definitively challenge nationalism.
For the visitor, all these pavilions are a window onto the different aspects and scenes within the contemporary art world.
Discovering artists at the Art Biennale
Beyond the exhibition that I personally organized, the Art Biennale gave me the chance to discover several artists and works, for example the painter Frank Walter, who was represented by Antigua & Barbuda.
I found the artwork by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler in the Swiss pavilion, dedicated to Giacometti’s mistress and supposed son, a highly impactful film.
We often have dreams that go far beyond what the budget allows.
At the Centre Pompidou and the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia I have had to seek out external resources.
This process has become the norm for all museums and biennales.
Time spent looking for funding is time not spent working with the artists.
That said, looking for funding does give you the opportunity to meet some very interesting people.
I’ve been lucky enough to have received support for this year’s Art Biennale from a lot of people, especially women in the art world – like Maja Hoffmann, Alida Catella, Patrizia Sandretto etc.
The art market
Many people have written that I am anti the art market. It’s not true.
It is just that I am not driven by the market.
I don’t take it into consideration when I make my choices, even if it makes things less easy sometimes.
The commercial impact of the Art Biennale
When I look at what’s happened since the 2017 Art Biennale, I have noticed some improvements for the artists: for instance McArthur Binion has a new gallery in Milan, Massimo di Carlo.
Michelle Stuart is now represented by Alison Jacques.
Petrit Halilaj who is currently being exhibited at the New Museum in New York will soon be opening at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid.
The piece by the Paris-based American artist Sheila Hicks has been particularly admired and she now has numerous new projects.
This all proves that the impact of the Art Biennale is gigantic.
And this effect has been amplified all the more since the attendance increased by 23% from the previous edition.
I am not obsessed by media attention. Regardless of whether the reviews were positive or negative, it was in any case impossible to read them all!
Real independent art criticism is in fact rare.
And the media don’t always have enough time to cover things in depth.
One of the most articulate pieces I read was the one by the art historian Claire Bishop in Artforum.
There are artworks that have truly flourished over the course of the Art Biennale.
This is the case of Dawn Kasper, for instance, who moved her whole studio into the centre of the international pavilion.
I have seen the video by Charles Atlas numerous times without ever getting tired of it throughout the Biennale.
I was left dazzled by Maria Lai’s work, so poetic and unique.
The art world
The media always focus on the top 50 artists, but there are many more.
The art world is more diverse and stratified than ever.
There are more artists in the shadow than in the light, struggling in this new highly competitive global art world, and a lot of artists who have yet to be recognized and revealed.
The next project
Next year I will be presenting a retrospective exhibition dedicated to the Austrian artist Franz West at the Centre Pompidou