13 Jan 2017 – ANTHONY GARDNER: On Contemporary Art Exhibitions and the Dawn of a Discipline


Friday, 13 January 2017, 12.00pm - 2.00pm
The Substation Theatre 



Whereas museums and art histories have long sought to imagine the national, large-scale international art exhibitions such as biennials are, for the most part, resolutely anchored in the more localised world of the city. Their funding, impetus, name and purpose often derive from their host cities, which seek to draw global attention to particular metropolitan contexts, often for the purposes of civic boosterism. This is the most well-known argument about biennials – that, in their branding of cities as “destination zones” for contemporary art, biennials are little more than handmaidens to neoliberal globalisation.

Professor Gardner will approach biennials from a slightly different angle, however, for this presumed globality of biennials should be better understood as forms of the trans-local rather than the transnational, the global or the international per se. These translocal connections have a long history, as do biennials. Tracing those histories is my main concern in this talk.

In particular, he wishes to explore the prospects and challenges posed to contemporary art, and especially contemporary art histories, by the translocal operations of biennials, both today but also, and perhaps especially, during the development of biennials worldwide after World War Two. Not only was this the time when translocal histories became the cornerstone of biennial cultures, but those exhibitions are posing very important questions for the development of a new field in contemporary art: that of curatorial and exhibition histories.



DR ANTHONY GARDNER is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Oxford, where he is also the Director of Graduate Studies at the Ruskin School of Art. He has published widely on subjects including postcolonialism, postsocialism and curatorial histories, and is an editor of the MIT Press journal ARTMargins. Among his books are Mapping South: Journeys in South-South Cultural Relations (Melbourne, 2013), Politically Unbecoming: Postsocialist Art against Democracy (MIT Press, 2015) and, also through MIT Press in 2015, the anthology Neue Slowenische Kunst: From Kapital to Capital (with Zdenka Badovinac and Eda Čufer). His latest book, co-authored with Charles Green, isBiennials, Triennials and Documenta: The Exhibitions that Created Contemporary Art, published by Wiley-Blackwell in summer 2016.

Ailin Chin