1999 Historic Archives for Contemporary
Arts (ASAC) Foreword by Paolo Baratta, President
of la Biennale di Venezia
1998 the appointment of Harald Szeemann as the curator of the exhibition to be
held the following year, coincided with a pivotal decision made by the Biennale
in regard to its Art Exhibition. This decision was to give it a permanent and
definitive structure as an international exhibition entrusted to its own
curator, to accompany the Biennale presented in the pavilions of participating
countries. Thus solutions that had been adopted on various occasions in
previous years for particularly inspired moments in the life of the exhibition,
were translated into a definitive strategy: in particular when the exhibition,
which was divided into sections, introduced a new section entitled APERTO which
would feature new trends from around the world and the work of the younger
1980 edition of APERTO was entrusted to Harald Szeemann as co-curator with
Achille Bonito Oliva. The appointment of Harald Szeemann as curator for the
1999 exhibition marked the onset of an era in which the curators would be
selected from all around the world. In previous years, they had always been
Italian, closely assisted by a series of commissions, with the sole exception
of Jean Clair, who curated the centennial exhibition.
ambitious decision to permanently organize an international exhibition was also
intended as a response to the criticism being expressed on many fronts
regarding the inadequacy of the exhibition in Venice, which was still organized
into pavilions, an inadequacy that was becoming increasingly clear at a time
when the geography of art had long broken across national borders, and was going
through its own globalization process.
pursue this objective, the Biennale needed more exhibition space than just the
Central Pavilion, which during the Fascist era had been designated as the
Italian Pavilion, a name by which the building continued to be known even
though it had always, and increasingly so after World War II, been the venue
for exhibitions of various kinds and artists from different countries, not just
the official Italian selection.
it needed was an expansion of its spaces, and Harald’s decision to accept the
curatorship for that Biennale was undoubtedly influenced by the announcement
that the Biennale had been granted permanent use of the monumental area of the
Arsenale. Expanding our venues and widening our outlook were the necessary
premises for developing a model that would become the new model for all the
years to come.
1999 exhibition not coincidentally was entitled dAPERTuttO, alluding to the seed planted in 1980.
permanent decision to create a stable organizational model was a distinct
message to the world, the premise for a plan to grow and to consolidate the
consideration in which our institution was held in the world.
Szeeman carried within him the new brilliance that was being acknowledged in
the figure of the curator: first and foremost the capacity to relate to the
artists at the vital moment of artistic creation. He seemed to share the
vitality of the work, the energy that emanated from it, the ability to
translate ideas and concepts into form, as well as the most intimate
sensibilities and an insight into social life and history, utopias and
obsessions. It was this spirit that made him the epitome of a curator who
understood contemporary art, and could interpret the needs of contemporary
Szeemann had, and was unequivocal about it, an aspiration and a utopia, which
he called a bond of friendship, that through the mere knowledge of people’s
works and history, made it possible to build not only artistic but greater communities,
in which exchange is fostered by the generosity of the individual members.
and the science of archives make it possible today to use images to reproduce
the exhibitions of the past in their entirety, though in fragmentary fashion.
We believe this to be an invaluable exercise, as a practice of study and
alone are insufficient. Exhibition catalogues must necessarily be printed
before the works are installed, and many of their images refer to works that
are by these authors, but are not the works presented in the exhibition.
all the great curators, and Szeeman in particular, raise the issue of where the
work will be sited, not only along the itinerary of the exhibition, but in
relation to the space in which it is located. For many contemporary works of
art, the space in which they are sited somehow becomes complementary to them,
and that is why examining an exhibition in retrospect offers greater enrichment
to the memory and understanding of it.
the Biennale, in its exhibition, which is now endowed not only with a white
cube building but with the awe-inspiring historical buildings of the Arsenale
as well, offers the curators of the international exhibition a two-fold
instrument, expanding the range of possibilities for their exhibition projects.
1999 exhibition, and Harald Szeemann, marked the birth of a new Biennale that
took personal responsibility for the international exhibition, which would no
longer be divided, as I mentioned earlier, into sections. It is with him, therefore,
that we inaugurated the new cycle that is still underway today.