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XLVII ESPOSIZIONE INTE -NOP/49User Review - Book Verdict
These three massive volumes present the hundreds of contemporary works that were on display last summer as part of either the Venice Biennale or the quinquennial Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany. Both shows purport to survey the entire international contemporary art scene, and both are regularly criticized for being too broad or too narrow, for favoring a certain movement or style, or for ignoring specific artists, countries, or continents. Nonetheless, these shows remain the best chance to freeze a moment in the cascade of images and try to draw some broad connections. The Venice show is traditionally organized by nationality, and the jury has only limited choice in determining who represents each nation (satiric painter Robert Colescott represented the United States in 1997). Acclaimed curator Celant, in his first time at the helm of the Venice show, found a way around this by creating a concurrent show, Future Present Past, which ostensibly compares the three generations of artists currently active. Except for some verbose front matter, the two volumes present the Venice shows in a straightforward manner, reproducing multiple works from the more than 50 national representatives in Volume 1 and from the 60 curated artists in Volume 2. Because curator David and her team chose overtly to build the show around a theme--which could very roughly be called politics of the avant-garde--Documenta was probably a more successful exhibit, but it is also a more challenging catalog. This being the tenth show, culminating 50 years of avant-garde art in the postwar period, David asked French art historian Chevrier to collaborate with her in editing a history of the entire period. Presenting texts from dozens of writers and critics--including Hannah Arendt, Edward Said, James Baldwin, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder--in addition to works by dozens of artists, this is a complex analysis filled with fascinating juxtapositions. Students of postwar culture will find it invaluable, but those seeking to understand the contemporary art scene will be overwhelmed. The Venice catalogs, especially Future Present Past, would do well in any library that can afford them. Documenta X: The Book belongs in all academic collections.--Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"