Globalizing Contemporary Art: The Art World's New Internationalism

By Lotte Philipsen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Formally and thematically
global dimensions

To state that a work is thematically global means that the specific work addresses global isssues or globalization through its motif or subject matter. To state, on the other hand, that a work is formally global concerns the work’s discursive framing: for example, how it is curated and displayed among other works, or the way in which the artist’s background or critical receptions of the work are addressed. Whereas I am responsible for applying the terms ‘thematically’ and ’formally’ to these different modes of contemporary art’s engagement in the global, this general ambiguity of’global art’ is also presented by art historian Niru Ratham. He describes the contemporary art scene accordingly:

It had become clear by the end of the twentieth century that increasing num-
bers of artists, both from the erstwhile western [sic] centres of art production
and from elsewhere in the world, were making work either overtly addressed to
the phenomenon of globalisation, or comprehensible in terms of the debates that
were growing around the concept, even if they did not explicitly engage with it.
This second type of activity would include the Indigenous Australian art shown
at ‘Magiciens de la terre’, and in many international exhibitions since. Such work
engages with the conditions of Indigenous Australian life and traditions, but is
drawn into the international artworld through the globalisation of the exhibition
and market system.296

The first artistic approach to globalization referred to by Ratham above, where the phenomenon of globalization is overtly addressed, is what I refer to as thematically global, whereas I refer to the latter approach – which is not so much an active approach as a discursive institutional framing – as formally

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