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The Paris Biennial Phantom

Dinner for eight
Frederic Dumond (France)
©Biennale de Paris

The Biennale de Paris 2004 has nothing in common with the other official biennials, a phantom claiming its placement in the arts. March 15 was the last day open to the public but it seems people hardly even noticed the existence of it.

The fact that the biennial took place in the capital of France might have blinded many institutions and artists. The expectations were high but the lack of funding turned it into a disappointing event, causing the withdrawal of many artists and institution who cancelled their participation to the Biennial.

An investigation through the eventual reasons of its unsuccessful publicity leads to the conclusion, there is nothing official about it. The curator was an artist called Alexander Gurita and not a well-known curator selected by the cultural industry as it generally happens with art events of such visibility.

Aurelio Vicente (Spain)
©Biennale de Paris

Sympathetically, the aim of the event was to generate opportunities for reflection and awareness in today’s art forms. The intentional goals mean to be achieved were freeing art from today’s overwhelming aesthetics, immaterial art works and advanced art. Unconventional were the art forms of the project depending on the varied nature of project requirements: a discussion, a video screening, a meeting point, a one-to-one conversation, a game, a last minute party, a picnic, a charity dinner, a exchange of ideas conveying to new concepts, therefore the public could interact with the projects and became the ultimate outcome of the art piece.
The good intentions of the event might be questioned but can an artist alone really manage to curate an exhibition with such a pretentious name as Biennale de Paris?

In the last few years the French Ministry of Culture and the municipality of Paris, responsible for the regional funding to support contemporary art all over France, decentralised the official French Biennial from Paris to Lyon, renaming the event Biennale de Lyon. As result of the decentralisation in France, an artist called Alexander Gurita took this great opportunity to buy the rights on the name Biennale de Paris. Inevitable was the conflict raised with nearly all official institutions such as, for instance, the Ministry of Culture.

Bernard Brunon (Usa)
Yvon Nouzille (France)
©Biennale de Paris

This story might be even quite entertaining, a kind of hero was taking this issue even further, fighting against the Parisian establishment, which is most disliked by oh-so-many people in France.
In this way, Alexander Gurita's move seemed to be well received by some people, mostly artists, of course. One of the serious consequences of his move is that the French Ministry of Culture and a lot of other official instances refuse any contact and support to the Biennale organisation, as long as Alexander Gurita keeps the name La Biennale de Paris as his private property.

What's more, the inappropriate public space , its poverty in means and in organisation caused the inevitable effect to keep the doors of potential locations shut. No matter the good proposal of the projects, the lack of financial help turned into a harmful profile for artists.

The adventure of an individual can embark on the misfortune of many and inevitably put in high danger the career of many artists. Although who supported Alexander Gurita until the end were aware of it and did it for their believes, obviously not open to debate.

Text: Marzia Belvisi
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