Harald Szeemann (June 11, 1933 – February 18, 2005) was a Swiss curator, artist, and art historian, renowned for his profound influence on the contemporary art world. His career, spanning several decades, was marked by groundbreaking exhibitions and a revolutionary approach to curating.
Born in Bern, Switzerland, Szeemann developed an early interest in art and theater. He studied art history, archaeology, and journalism at the University of Bern. This diverse academic background laid the foundation for his interdisciplinary approach to curating.
Szeemann began his curatorial career at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1961. He quickly gained recognition for his innovative and often provocative exhibitions. His 1969 exhibition "When Attitudes Become Form" was groundbreaking, featuring works that emphasized the artist's process and ideas over the final object. This exhibition set a new standard for curatorial practice and is often cited as a seminal moment in contemporary art.
In 1972, Szeemann became the first independent curator in contemporary art history. This move allowed him more freedom and flexibility in his projects, leading to a series of significant, boundary-pushing exhibitions. His approach was characterized by thematic, often large-scale shows that transcended traditional museum formats and geographical boundaries.
Szeemann's role in the Venice Biennale was particularly notable. He served as the artistic director of the Venice Biennale in 1999 and 2001, becoming the first to curate the Biennale's main exhibition twice. His vision for the Biennale was transformative, focusing on a global perspective and introducing a thematic approach that challenged the traditional nation-based pavilion system. His exhibitions, "dAPERTutto" (1999) and "Plateau of Humankind" (2001), were praised for their innovative format and profound impact on the international art scene.
Szeemann's impact on the art world is immeasurable. He is remembered not only for the exhibitions he curated but also for the way he expanded the role of the curator. He believed in the curator as a creator in their own right, capable of crafting narratives and experiences that could challenge and expand the viewer's understanding of art. His work paved the way for a generation of curators and changed the landscape of contemporary art exhibitions.
Definition: The Primary Market refers to the segment of the art market where artworks are sold for the first time, directly from the artist or their representing galleries, rather than being resold by a previous collector or intermediary.
Direct Sale: The artwork is sold directly from the artist or through a representative gallery, ensuring that the piece has not been owned by another collector previously.
Original Price: Since the artwork is being sold for the first time, the price is determined without the influence of previous sales or appraisals, often reflecting the artist's current market value or the gallery's valuation.
Fresh to Market: Artworks in the primary market are often "fresh to market," meaning they have not been previously exhibited for sale in the public domain.
Supporting Emerging Artists: The primary market often plays a crucial role in supporting emerging artists by providing a platform for them to sell their works and gain recognition.
Authenticity: Purchasing from the primary market often comes with assurances of authenticity, as the direct chain of ownership from the artist is clear and traceable.
Investment Potential: For collectors, buying artworks from the primary market can present investment opportunities. If the artist's reputation and demand grow over time, the artwork's value can increase significantly.
Contrast with Secondary Market: While the primary market deals with the first sale of artworks, the secondary market involves the resale of artworks by collectors, dealers, or auction houses. The secondary market can provide insights into an artwork's appreciation or depreciation based on historical sales data and current market trends.
Origin: The term "Renaissance" was deeply influenced by the thoughts of Leon Battista Alberti. When the Pope commissioned him to restore the Roman aqueducts, which were neglected and damaged during the Middle Ages, Alberti used the terms "resurgence" or "rebirth" to describe the project, hinting at a renewed appreciation and rediscovery of the past's glories.
Definition: The Renaissance signifies a period of intense cultural, artistic, political, and economic revitalization in Europe, with a particular focus on the rebirth and valorization of classical traditions. The key concept is that of "resurgence," a renewed interest in antiquity, and the application of this knowledge to spur future innovations.
Characteristics: Central to the Renaissance are the ideas of revisiting and reclaiming the past to inform and inspire the present and future. This period underscores the cyclical interaction between past and present, where the ancient becomes the "classis", the fundamental basis for creating new works.
Examples and Impact: One of the most emblematic episodes of this period was the discovery of the Laocoön statue in the early 1500s in Rome. This magnificent representation of ancient art, along with other discoveries like the Farnese Hercules, not only influenced masters like Michelangelo but reaffirmed the importance and relevance of classical traditions. These archaeological finds became tangible symbols of lost greatness, emphasizing that the past was not just historical memory, but a continuous wellspring of inspiration for the artists and thinkers of the time.
Underlying Philosophy: The Renaissance underscores the importance of looking back to move forward. As suggested by Alberti, to create something new and revolutionary, it's essential to have a deep understanding of historical roots and foundations. This cycle of rediscovery and innovation manifests continually throughout human cultural history.
Origin: Derived from the name of an exhibition gallery opened in Paris by Bing, a connoisseur of Japanese art and craftsmanship.
Definition: An artistic and architectural style that emerged in anti-academic circles in Belgium in 1884 and spread throughout Europe and the United States between the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
USA: Art Nouveau
England: Modern Style, Art Nouveau
Germany: Jugendstil (from the magazine Jugend)
Italy: Floral Style, Liberty (inspired by the London department store founded in 1875 by Arthur Lasenby Liberty).
Characteristics: The style is distinguished by its sinuous lines, naturalistic shapes, and floral motifs, often with a strong inclination towards detailed ornamentation and innovative use of materials.
Contemporary, mirroring the German notion of "Zeitgenosse" - or being companions of one's time, embodies the spirit of the present moment, often with a vision towards the future. This concept emphasizes creating anew, sometimes to the extent of proposing a clean slate, as Adolf Loos once did by opposing past decorations.
While it holds the allure of paving paths for revolutionary ideas, contemporaneity also bears potential risks. The extreme manifestation of this concept was evident in Adolf Hitler's aspiration for the Third Reich, wherein he endeavored to erase history for a futuristic vision. Such a perspective can become a potent tool to enforce a singular worldview, neglecting the rich tapestry of the past.
Present and Future-focused: Centralizing current trends and upcoming visions.
Tabula Rasa Mentality: A frequent inclination to start anew, sometimes disregarding the past.
Unilinear Vision: The potential risk of advancing a singular perspective, often sidelining alternatives.
Definition: Modernità encompasses the historical period that initiated significant shifts from traditional modes of life, tending to lean on classical foundations. Rooted in the beliefs and practices from the past, modernity often seeks to adapt ancient principles to newer contexts. A prime example is the architect Le Corbusier, who while aiming to create a "new world," drew upon an ancient concept, the golden ratio, underscoring the essence of modernity.
Modernity, in essence, is about revisiting and reinterpreting the past while integrating it into the present.
Historical Roots: A reliance on established conventions, models, and standards.
Adaptation: Modifying classical foundations for contemporary applications.
Balanced Perspective: While it might strive for innovation, it respects and incorporates time-tested elements.
The term "classic" refers to something that follows a pre-existing model or has become a recognized standard over time. Its usage can vary depending on the context.
Origin: The word "classic" has its roots in ancient Rome, where it was used to categorize the different classes of society, particularly the "first class," considered the most prestigious. The Roman "class" was a system of division that determined voting rights and financial responsibilities towards the army. Over time, the concept of the "first class" evolved, first being associated with the Navy, and later with the concept of a port itself, as evidenced by the designation "Sant'Apollinare in Classe" in Ravenna, referring to the location of the military port.
Examples of use:
Music: "classic" evokes compositions by artists such as Schubert, in contrast to pop or rock music.
Architecture: it can refer to both traditional structures with columns similar to the White House and modern designs that have become standards over time.
Fashion: the order of words can influence perception; for example, "a classic jacket" might have a different meaning compared to "the classic jacket."
Modern Meaning: "Classic" is often used to indicate something traditional, long-lasting, or that has stood the test of time, becoming a benchmark in its field.
The "Accademia di Belle Arti" is an institution established for the training of artists. The first academies emerged in Italy in the latter half of the 16th century during a period of artistic upheaval. This was due to artists becoming more aware of their unique expressive individuality and a changing socio-economic landscape that reshaped the relationship between the artist and patron.
Prominent figures like Michelangelo, Vasari, and Leonardo began to view art as a speculative activity and emphasized the need for both theoretical and technical instruction. The traditional master-apprentice model was seen as limiting to the individuality and potential of the student. Early academies, such as the Accademia del Disegno in Florence (1563) and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome (1588), aimed to offer a curriculum grounded in sciences like anatomy, geometry, philosophy, and history. They also sought to free students from the constraints of artisan guilds.
However, by the early years of the 17th century, academies spread across Europe began regressing. In terms of education, they became resistant to new artistic theories, insisting on adhering to "classical" 16th-century principles related to design, human figures, composition, and themes, primarily mythological and historical. From a legal standpoint, academies exerted more control over artists by mediating their opportunities through competitions and exhibitions - the main avenues to secure patrons. The Counter-Reformation Church quickly dominated Italian academies to produce religious art as a vital propaganda tool (e.g., the Accademia di Brera, founded by Federico Borromeo).
In countries with absolute monarchies, kings directly funded academies, obliging them to produce works glorifying the monarchy and the idealized court life. This often suppressed the artist's individuality within "academic" standards. Many artists, such as Caravaggio and Goya, rebelled against these confines. Furthermore, academies created a distinction between "fine arts" (painting, sculpture, architecture) and "minor arts", devaluing the latter to mere craftsmanship.
The Romantic movement of the 19th century ushered in conscious critiques against academicism, championing the artist's absolute freedom. Subsequent European movements, starting from purism, realism, and pre-Raphaelitism, either opposed or rejected academies regarding artistic techniques and market control. Modern art has primarily positioned itself as "anti-academic", embracing themes that academies had previously dismissed.
Today, Accademie di Belle Arti operate as university-level institutions, accessible after graduating from an art high school. They offer training in painting, sculpture, and "minor arts". Among the numerous Italian academies, those in Venice, Rome, Turin, Naples, and Milan stand out.
The Academy (Accademia) was a garden dedicated to Academo, located near ancient Athens, where Plato held his teachings. From this place, the philosophical school that Plato founded took its name as a community for the study of various subjects. Today, the Accademia holds purely historical significance and serves a symbolic role of public acknowledgment.
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