Wait, Which "Ban" Was That Again?

Francesco Bonami, director of the 2003 Venice Biennale, writing for the NY Times' blog, The Moment:

...the sculptor Bruce Nauman, the Sam Shepherd of Contemporary Art, was awarded the Gold Lion for best national pavilion. (A sign that the Obama effect has lifted the ban that during the Bush era made the US pavilion "unfit" for the award.)
Really? There was a ban? Just so we're clear what Bonami's claiming, let's go to the tape:

49th Biennale, 2001: Germany won for Gregor Schneider's insane, awesomely claustrophobic house. The US Pavilion showed Robert Gober, who had been selected under the Clinton era. Clear winner: Schneider.

50th Biennale, 2003, Bonami's incarnation: Luxembourg won for Su-Mei Tse's sound installation. The US Pavilion showed Fred Wilson, who invited African street sellers to display counterfeit Vuitton/Murakami bags in the courtyard. Clear loser: Wilson. [Obviously, I would've given the award to Olafur's transformative Danish Pavilion, but Wilson shouldn't have won anything, and didn't.]

51st Biennale, 2005: France won for Annette Messager's puppet/stuffed animal thing. The US barely got its shit together in time to pick Ed Ruscha. Clear winner? None, really.

52nd Biennale, 2007: So does that mean that, if it weren't for a "ban," Nancy Spector's installation of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, which was as damning a condemnation of the Bush era and ideology as a could be imagined, could've/would've/should've won over Hungary's Andreas Fogarasi, who showed black box video of various European street scenes.

Is that what you're saying, Francesco? Are you just talking post-game smack? Was there really ban, where jurors took a brave, but apparently totally private stand--one that ended up denying an award to an artist who did speak out even after he died? Or was it the kind of stories we tell to ease our minds, like how everyone in France was in the Resistance?

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: June 9, 2009.

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