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Carnegie International tackles the era of the American superpower

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At the opening ceremony of his museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1895, industrialist Andrew Carnegie – who later sold his steel business and became the richest man in America – exhibited a radically different view of that of his fellow museum founders Andrew Mellon and Henry Clay Frick. “There is a great field behind us, which it is desirable for an institution to occupy in collecting the first masterpieces of American painting from the beginning,” he told the thousands of Pittsburghers gathered. “But the field for which this gallery is designed begins with the year 1896.”

That year, the Carnegie Institute held its first international exhibition, making it the second longest-running recurring exhibition in the world after the Venice Biennale, launched a year earlier. Now known as Carnegie International, it became one of the most watched exhibitions in the United States and shaped the evolution of the Carnegie Museum of Art.

“Instead of enriching the art museum with its own collection, [Carnegie] advocated for an exhibit that the museum would collect,” says museum director Eric Crosby. “Consequently, the institution grew with each successive Carnegie International, as works by exhibiting artists were acquired for the museum’s collection – a tradition that continues today.” By the time the previous edition closed in March 2019, the Carnegie Museum had made nearly 40 acquisitions, including works by Huma Bhabha, Alex Da Corte, Park McArthur and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

This year’s Carnegie International, the 58th, respects its founder’s maxim of looking to the future, but will also survey the “field that lies behind us.” Organized by Sohrab Mohebbi, who was named the new director of SculptureCenter in New York in February, it is called Is it already morning for you? after an expression for “hello” used by the Kaqchikel people, an indigenous Maya group in Guatemala.

The exhibition will feature works by more than 100 participants. It will include historical works on loan from artist estates and institutions as well as recent and newly commissioned pieces, and measure the geopolitical footprint of the United States since 1945. “We thought about this time since the end of World War II. world and the beginning of American hegemony,” says Mohebbi.

National heroes

Among the historical works will be works by several artists revered in their national context but overlooked internationally, such as Guatemalan artists Margarita Azurdia and Roberto Cabrera, and Salvadoran painters Rosa Mena Valenzuela and Carlos Cañas. “When I saw these works, I felt that we really needed to show them to say that contemporary art is not something historically indeterminate,” says Mohebbi. “We show new works and new commissions from artists who are active now, but we can also show how they are also looking at their own art history, to show that they are in conversations that are very relevant at the level national within the local community. the history of art “.

There will be a number of works by artists from Central and South America, regions where the United States was particularly ruthless in carrying out its geopolitical agenda during the second half of the 20th century. century. from Chile Salvador Allende Solidarity Museum-founded in the early 1970s with artist donations of around 3,000 works, then in exile after the overthrow of Allende’s CIA-backed government in a 1973 coup – will premiere times pieces from his collection in the United States.

Among the new commissions, several extend beyond the walls of the Carnegie Museum. Pittsburgh artist James “Yaya” Hough unveiled a mural in the city’s Hill neighborhood, which was developed through public workshops and painting sessions with community members. Meanwhile, American artist Tony Cokes, known for his text-based public art, has created works that will be featured on four digital billboards around the city along Route 28.

Berlin-based collective terra0 contributed to a complex project in collaboration with a local community college: a tree owns the land it occupies. The black gum tree that the collective planted on the campus of Allegheny College, titled A tree; a society; a person—will regulate and govern itself through a digital smart contract. “It brings together technology, art and environmental activism,” says Mohebbi. “It was also a way of responding to the local environment – most of Pennsylvania’s forests were lost to industry in the 19th century and early 20th century.”

LaToya Ruby Frazier, a Pittsburgh-area contemporary artist, was commissioned to create a monument to commemorate the heroism of healthcare workers in Baltimore’s underserved communities during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. “LaToya wanted to address the work done primarily by women of color and try to make sure health care is expanded and reaches different communities,” Mohebbi said.

The project echoes Frazier’s photographic series The concept of family, which partly documents the closing and demolition of a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospital, leaving residents of his hometown without any access to a local clinic. Frazier’s new series about the extraordinary community outreach of medical workers in Baltimore amid the pandemic, Mohebbi says, is one of “many projects that address the questions we face in our communities here in Pittsburgh and across the country.” of the”.