We all enter juried art shows from time to time. It's like legalized gambling for artists. Ya pays ya money and ya takes ya chances. Worse, there is an inverse relationship between your chances of even getting in, and the prestige of the show. The greater the prestige, the more artists enter, the higher the entry fee, and the greater the unlikelihood you'll be selected. Of course, just getting in doesn't guarantee any more than some bragging rights, perhaps a few column inches in your local paper, and the hassle of shipping or delivering your work. Naturally, the big payoff comes with a possible prize or maybe a sale. It's a little better odds than the lottery, but not by much.
The really prestigious shows in this country you can count on the fingers of one hand...two if you wanna be generous. There's the Carnegie, and the Whitney...and a couple more on the West coast, one or two in the midlands, one I think in Seattle, and another one in Texas, but otherwise, they're all pretty much back room poker games for the locals. Right now it's the Whitney Biennial currently occupying center stage, going on through June 4, 2000. It's somewhat unique this time for having SIX curators, museum directors from various parts of the country. They met and compromised, and the result has been declared everything from mildly interesting to downright bland by writers and art people who get paid big bucks to decide such things. Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times calls it: "...a show without a theme, no strong point of view, not much sex, no dead pigs, no fecal matter or rotting eggs or mannequins with a penis for a nose." If you're expecting another "Sensations" show like the one from across the East River, forget it--Hans Haacke not withstanding.
This is not good. Haacke, in his presentation, "Sanitation," compares Rudi Giuliani to Hitler, but having learned his lesson in the Brooklyn flap, the mayor chose not to object too strenuously. Thus there have been no TV cameras shooting lines wrapped around the block, no vandalism, no art thefts...in short, nothing to write home about. The show is mostly politically correct, ecumenical, independent, eclectic, geographically diverse, bows to all media (including this year for the first time, the Internet), and endorses an almost mathematical sexual diversity. It blithly does what Biennials are SUPPOSE to do, report on the art scene from across the country. The difficulty is, there's not much to report. There are a few hot artist like John Currin and Vanessa Beecroft, a few veterans like Luis Camnitzer and Rina Bannerjee, but most are relatively unknown, including a few who should remain that way. Almost like a convention, there is a delegation from Texas, one from California, and another from the East coast, with the rest of the 97 lucky ducks having been elected "at large." And for this they charge ten bucks, unless you're particularly young or old, then it's eight. I might cross the street, but I wouldn't make a special trip to the "big apple" just to see it. I'll wait for the Carnegie. Besides, it's closer.