Curator trio to lead next Carnegie International

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The Carnegie Museum of Art announced today the appointment of a three-person team of curators to organize the 56th Carnegie International, which opens in October 2013.

They are curator Daniel Baumann of Basel, Switzerland; associate curator Dan Byers of Pittsburgh; and associate curator Tina Kukielski of New York.

This is the first time a team of three has been chosen to organize the venerable exhibition. Begun in 1896, it is the second oldest survey of international contemporary art in the world and the oldest in this hemisphere.

"This new structure will allow the International to result from a conversation among three very talented individuals of different ages, nationalities and perspectives," said Carnegie Director Lynn Zelevansky. "I'm excited and intrigued to see what is produced out of this collaboration, which seems suited to our increasingly globalized world."

While the first triad appointment, it's not the first time more than one curator has organized an International. Mr. Baumann is also not the first foreign curator. Briton Mark Francis and Lynne Cooke, a native of Australia who lived in Britain, co-curated the 1991 Carnegie International, while Americans John R. Lane and John Caldwell co-curated the 1985 International.

The mix promises a lively and unpredictable show. Mr. Baumann, according to the Carnegie, is considered one of the most innovative contemporary curators in Europe, with particular expertise in public art and outsider artists. He is curator of the Adolf Wolfli Foundation at the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Switzerland, and holds a degree in art history and German literature from the University of Geneva. Mr. Baumann will be based in Europe until September 2012, when he will move with his family to Pittsburgh. He will remain at the museum through December 2013.

Mr. Byers is a popular and familiar face, in the community and at the Carnegie, where he has been associate curator of contemporary art since 2009 and initiated Culture Club, a monthly evening of socializing and dialogue that has become one of the local art scene's most desirable destinations. Curator of the current exhibition "Forum 65: Jones, Koester, Nashashibi/Skaer: Reanimation," he is putting finishing touches on "Ordinary Madness" which will open Oct. 15.

In 2011, Mr. Byers is presenting the first U.S. solo museum exhibition of hot Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. In his previous position, at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (where Carnegie International 2008 curator Douglas Fogle also was recruited from), he worked on large thematic exhibitions.

Ms. Kukielski comes from the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, where she had worked since 2002 and was a senior curatorial assistant. She brings to the group experience with emerging artists and the production of large-scale monographic exhibitions and scholarly catalogues. She will arrive at the Carnegie in January and remain through the run of the exhibition.

That Mr. Baumann won't arrive until 2012 is not a problem in a time of e-mail and Skype, said Carnegie spokesperson Ellen James.

"There are various ways that people can stay in contact with each other and share information and have conversations with one another."

Asked whether budgetary matters and travel costs influenced the choice of a European-based curator, Ms. James said "He was chosen because he's a phenomenal curator who's organized more than 60 shows and written more than 100 articles on contemporary arts. He wasn't chosen because he's cost-effective. He's an incredible curator, connected with European galleries, collectors and institutions."

She does allow that there are some benefits to his location. "If he decides to go to London, it's not a transatlantic flight -- it's a train ride." Mr. Baumann will also travel every month or two to Pittsburgh.

The curatorial team was chosen because they were "the right people for the job and they work well together," Ms. James emphasized. "One of the great aspects of this collaboration is that there are three people with wide global connections within the art world."

Mr. Baumann's affiliation with the Wolfli Foundation is tantalizingly outside the box and promises an open-mindedness that transcends standard gallery walls. Outsider artist Adolf Wolfli (1864-1930) was a farmhand and laborer who created a 25,000-page illustrated narrative of his childhood and of a glorious future while a resident of Waldau, a mental asylum near Bern, Switzerland. Mr. Baumann curated the Wolfli exhibition shown at the American Folk Art Museum in New York in 2003.

Mr. Baumann, 43, is also co-founder of the Shift Festival for Digital Arts; New Jerseyy, an internationally acclaimed Basel exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art, film, music and publishing; and curator of Nordtangente-Kunsttangente, a Basel-based project for art in public spaces.

In almost an understatement, Mr. Baumann speculated that he was invited to join the curatorial team because he has "quite a good insight into what is going on in contemporary art" and "some unconventional ideas and projects that probably influenced the choice."

"What I want to bring to Pittsburgh with team members Dan and Tina is an International that is playful and very serious, informed but very accessible, an exhibition that can be accessed by very different people on very different levels," Mr. Baumann said in a telephone interview from Switzerland.

"I'm sure we're going to take into account the city. We're not just parachuting a show in there."

In 1991, Mr. Francis and Ms. Cooke moved beyond the boundaries of the museum, spilling the International into other Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Would Mr. Baumann, with his interest in public art and public spaces, consider something similar?

"We're discussing this already," he said. "How can we make the Carnegie International be something that goes beyond the art museum?" They are also giving consideration to involving other institutions and individuals connected to the local art world.

Mr. Byers, 29 and a resident of Polish Hill, said he was quite happy with the appointments.

"Over the past year and a half that I've been here I've felt incredibly energized by the museum and its resources and the community here," Mr. Byers said.

He believes that one of the reasons he was chosen for the team is the thought that he's given to exhibiting contemporary art and artists, including how "the larger institution and its ecology and its history can generate ideas for this International, how sites can suggest certain things, and how the International feeds back into the museum."

Mr. Byers said there's already "easy conversation and excitement" within the team.

Does he see this project as a continuing experiment?

"Absolutely. Shifting dynamics, shifting energies."

Ms. Kukielski, 31, will use her break between the Whitney and arrival in Pittsburgh to complete aspects of her doctoral studies at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Contemporary art and photography are particular areas of expertise. She co-curated "The Freedom Salon" exhibition at Deitch Projects, New York, in the summer of 2004, to provide a forum for engagement on current political issues during the presidential campaign.

"I think [Ms. Zelevansky] really wanted to have new and fresh perspectives around the table. I've had a tight track record with identifying the art of today, immersing myself in the art world, managing relationships with artists, not only in New York but across the U.S," Ms. Kukielski said by phone from New York on Thursday.

She plans to bring "an enthusiasm for art and for artists, and to work with artists to generate new ideas. I plan to remain open to the possibilities of the artmaking of today ... to art I don't immediately understand and know."

Andrew Carnegie established what became the Carnegie International to exhibit the "Old Masters of tomorrow" and to build a collection by purchasing from the exhibitions. The museum has acquired nearly 400 works of art that appeared in Carnegie Internationals. It has also acquired many more works by artists who have been represented in the survey shows.

Almost 280,000 people visited the 2008 Carnegie International, "Life on Mars," which placed it among the most highly attended exhibitions in recent history.

"Daniel, Dan and Tina possess a wealth of talent and energy," said William E. Hunt, chairman of the museum board. "With this team, the 2013 Carnegie International promises to again focus the eyes of the art world on our exceptional museum."


Post-Gazette art critic Mary Thomas can be reached at mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.


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