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Whither the Venice Biennale?

An article (La Biennale de Venise a présenté sa nouvelle direction, August 14) by Harry Bellet for Le Monde relates the news that two Spaniards will direct the next Venice Biennale, in June 2005: Maria de Corral (from Madrid, former director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía) and Rosa Martinez (from Barcelona, organizer of the Spanish pavilion at the 2003 Biennale). (Jason Edward Kaufman reported the story, Spanish duo to direct Venice Biennale 2005; First American to organise 2007 edition, for The Art Newspaper.) The 2007 Biennale will be directed by American critic Robert Storr, formerly a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. Storr will also organize a special symposium, in Fall 2005, "to analyze and study the state of contemporary art." The French pavilion in 2005 will be organized by Annette Messager (see Ionarts post on July 10). Should we be worried about the American pavilion at Venice in 2005?

However, the United States are in danger of exhibiting an empty pavilion: the National Endowment for the Arts has pulled out of the selection committee, as well as two of the principal sponsors, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Rockefeller Foundation. Constructed in 1930, the American pavilion is the only one of Giardini that is private property: the Guggenheim Foundation bought it in 1986 for $30,000. But the Guggenheim is not responsible for the selection and, according to the New York Times, does not seem inclined to absorb the costs of an exhibit that it did not organize. That leaves only ten months for the State Department, which coordinates the American participation, to find $1 million and to choose an artist. The development is irritating enough that the New York Times devoted an editorial to it on August 9.
The date is not correct, but here's the article (Venice without America, August 7), reprinted in the International Herald Tribune. The State Department is making decisions about American representation at the Venice Biennale? Does anyone else think this is crazy? Doesn't the State Department have other things to worry about? I've said it before, but the United States needs a Department of Culture (see the Ionarts Proposal).

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