There has not in my memory been another director of the Venice Biennale who has been as widely acclaimed for his creative vision and assured execution as Massimiliano Gioni, the New Museum’s associate director and director of exhibitions. From all accounts, he has expertly navigated the challenges of a nearly impossible task—to bring some order to the chaos of the international cutting edge, without blunting the edges, while putting it historic context. Who else could have pulled off such an eclectic, yet coherent, tour de force?
Always a respected player, Massimiliano is now firmly positioned at center stage in the artworld. For future productions, he can probably write his own ticket. Can his current home base—the estimable but relatively modest New Museum—contain his multitudes?
Gioni may soon find himself fielding job offers. But I hope he stays under auspices that are scrappy and nimble (like the New Museum), rather than subjecting himself to the iron hand a lumbering megamuseum that would likely squelch his wide-ranging, outside-the-box curatorial imagination.
In writing last December about Gioni’s selection of the American Folk Art Museum’s The Encyclopedic Palace of the World by Marino Auriti as the signature object for his Biennale, I had called this “an intriguing choice…and also a nice gesture by the widely respected associate director of the New Museum in calling international attention to another New York museum in need of a higher profile. Will any more folk art make it into Massimiliano’s Mix?”
The answer turns out to be a resounding “yes,” if you substitute “outsider art” or “work by self-taught artists” for my “folk art.” As Gioni says in Tom Chen‘s ArtInfo video, below, his show includes “works that were produced by people who were not recognized as artists….That’s one of the main provocations of the show.” Massimiliano is sufficiently confident in his own eye to elevate artists who “cultivate[d] a passion in a state of semi-obscurity or reclusion.”
In his three and a half-minute overview of his Encyclopedic Palace exhibition at Venice’s Giardini and Arsenale, Gioni describes it as “an exhibition about the desire to see and know everything.” Near the end of the video clip, he (unwittingly) invents an evocative new word—“seducted” (for “seduced’).
With all the intense but wonderful developments in my own personal life over the last few weeks, I couldn’t possibly have made it to the recent press previews in Venice. But the words and images in this video make me want to journey to the artworld’s Magic Kingdom, some time before the Biennale closes on Nov. 24.
Would anyone like to send me there on assignment? (If only!)
For now, armchair art-lings, we will just have to content ourselves with this: