Better Late

Article excerpt

Whatever else is said about this year's Venice Biennale, the international thematic exhibition that is traditionally its centerpiece will be remembered for having been curated with lightning speed. It was only in January that Germano Celant, the Guggenheim Museum's peripatetic curator of contemporary art, assumed his duties as the Biennale's general director. The reasons for the delay were numerous: according to Celant, there were originally plans to postpone the Biennale until next year in order to put the show on schedule for the millennium; there were also "complications" surrounding the Biennale's previous curator, Jean Clair, whose contract lasted through December. The Biennale board of directors finally decided to stick to '97, thanks to pressure from local politicians, representatives of the national pavilions, and the staff of "La Biennale" (the organization that produces the show), who had prepared for an exhibition this year. The promise of increased attendance due to this summer's round of blockbusters - Documenta and the Munster sculpture project - most likely secured the '97 date. And although Celant has managed to pull together a show, to prevent such institutional messes in the future, a proposal is before Italian Parliament to streamline the Biennale's bureaucracy.

With a scant few months to assemble one of the art world's preeminent exhibitions, "time" has certainly been at issue. And in fact it will figure prominently in Celant's exhibition entitled "Future, Present, Past, 1967-1997." "In a way this is not a title, it is so open; in a sense the theme is time," admits Celant, "The idea is to do a contemporary show that will include history and the Aperto simultaneously." If Jean Clair suffered much criticism for axing the Aperto - that "edgy" exhibition of young artists, first instituted in 1980 and often the most anticipated aspect of the Biennale - Celant set out to avoid a similar blunder. He proposes to incorporate work that would normally appear in the Aperto in the larger exhibition, which will span the art of three generations. As Celant sees it, the first generation emerged in the late '60s and '70s, and the show's selections reflect the differences between European and American artistic practices during those years, as well as the effects of the cold war. The next generation comprises '80s artists whose work, according to Celant, addresses "issues of gender. …

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