Forget New York, London and Paris. There are twelve global cities setting a new agenda for contemporary art now. The book just launched: Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes showcases today's international artistic frontiers: where communities of like-minded artists are producing exceptionally experimental work. These twelve new centres for contemporary art are introduced through the eyes of curators deeply engaged in each city. Each city has an introduction written by one of the twelve curators: Beirut by Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, Bogotá by Jose Roca, Cluj by Jane Neal, Delhi by Geeta Kapur, Istanbul by Duygu Demir, Johannesburg by Tracy Murinik, Lagos by Antawan Byrd, San Juan by Pablo Leon de la Barra, São Paulo by Kiki Mazzucchelli, Seoul by Hyun Jung, Singapore by Eugene Tan and Vancouver by Reid Shier.
They have also selected eight emerging artists and artistic collectives who live and work in each city. Their unique perspectives are increasingly shaping the course of art today, not only locally, but also regionally and globally - giving us remarkable insight into the future of art.
Each city has its own distinct history that has lead to the burgeoning art scenes that exist now. The introductions outline the complexities of each place and various factors that have influenced their cultural development, including geography, politics, economics, infrastructure and migration.
Strengths and weaknesses of the individual art communities are highlighted with descriptions of the systems that support them, such as educational institutions, museums, galleries and art collectives. The success of each city's progress to become valued centres for art is born from two important elements; the guiding force of the energy and talent of key figures in their native community - including artists, teachers, dealers and curators - and the connection to the international art scene through biennales, art fairs and globally focused curatorial programmes. The curators and academics selected to introduce each city have been instrumental and highly involved in each community and intimately know the detailed story behind each journey to become new centres for the 21st century avant-garde.
Pablo Leon de la Barra, one of the curators invited to present a city in this a book and a curator of Latin American art for the Guggenheim, has kindly agreed to respond to the following questions:
1. What makes San Juan as one of the top ten cities of the future?
The fact that San Juan's art scene (even though Puerto Rico is a free associated state of the US) has been ignored by most of the US art institutions, curators, collectors, has paradoxically allowed for an art scene to develop independently.
2. - Is there a trend or movement you find interesting?
- the importance of social participation and engagement in most of the artists and works
- the development of self run artists or curator exhibition and education spaces as a response to the lack of enough support from institutions and collectors in Puerto Rico
- the appearance of what I call a 'tropical povera' style, which creates art works with what is found around, and is less interested with a finished polished consumer aesthetic.
3. How did you make the selection of the eight artists?
Unfortunately I was only allowed to select from the artist's living in San Juan, which reduced the possibilities as there are many other artists as good as the ones selected which have migrated temporarily or permanently to other places (mainly the US). Of those of the new generation which I would have loved to include amongst others are Javier 'Javo' Bosques, Guillermo Rodriguez or Monica Rodriguez, who all live abroad. I would also have liked to include more female and homosexual artists.
4. Is it a way to bring these talented artists to a wider audience in North America and Europe?
I believe it should be the other way around, that US and European audiences if interested should go to San Juan to understand the context in which this works are produced! I think Phaidon's book recognizes the shift on which the USA and Europe have stopped being the only dominant art centres, and in the recognition of the existence of many other centres which have stopped being peripheries and which have developed their own voices and scenes independently if they get or not recognition from the old dominant ones.
With the economic power, and with it, art communities, shifting to Asia, Middle East and other parts of America a fresh approach is needed to present a more balanced world no longer dominated by Europe and the States.