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Risks and Rewards

The risks of the 2004-5 Carnegie International paid off, says its curator—in a fresh and challenging exhibition, as well as a long list of new additions to the permanent collection.





The 2004-5 Carnegie International drew thousands of visitors from the region and around the world to Pittsburgh.
Photo: Tom Altany

"I wasn’t sure what the artists would give me, but I think it paid off,” says Laura Hoptman, curator of the 2004-5 Carnegie International. In retrospect, Hoptman says she took a lot of risks with the show by commissioning more new works than usual “to keep the platform fresh.”

Most of the works were installed by the artists, which required careful collaboration between the artists and Carnegie Museum of Art’s staff. “The greatest challenge was to integrate the artists’ visions with the needs of the museum,” says Hoptman. What made the process exciting for her was that “the artists believed in the show, shared ideas, and created a community of opinion.”

Paul Krainak, a painter and art professor at West Virginia University, has seen many of the Carnegie Internationals, and visited the 2005 show 10 times. “What was most successful about this show was that there were a lot of artists represented who were important to me,” says Krainak. “For example, Julia Mehretu was the highlight for me. I thought her works were brilliant.”

Another local artist, Fran Gialamas, has been attending Carnegie Internationals since she was an art student in 1955. “As a student, I saw my first original artworks while touring the Carnegie International. I saw my first Picassos, my first Andrew Wyeths, and the Calder mobile,” she says.

She was taken with Mehretu’s large-scale paintings as well, calling them “fantastic work.” Gialamas says, “People should appreciate the Carnegie Internationalfor the opportunity to see the actual works—in scale—in that gorgeous space,” instead of seeing them reproduced in books and journals.

While Hoptman searched for artists to be represented in the Carnegie International, she also hunted for works that could be added to the museum’s permanent collection. “In general, this is the most comprehensive and aggressive purchase plan since 1950,” says Richard Armstrong, The Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art. “Laura was a very shrewd shopper and took us to artists when we could still afford them two-and-a-half years ago. The pieces we bought are not necessarily the ones in the show, but they are important works by the same artists.”

Although reviews by critics were mixed, both Hoptman and Armstrong say the show was a success. “In Pittsburgh, the reception was fantastic,” says Hoptman. As for the critics, Hoptman says the reviews were half good and half bad, with some critics on the coasts “ticked” that they didn’t know the artists. “But they didn’t bother to do any research,” she adds.

Armstrong says the reception “was a direct response to the complexity of the exhibition.” The show required repeat visits—and attention to the nuances and details—to understand the works. “I liked the show at the beginning, and grew increasingly fond of it as I visited it repeatedly,” he says.

In contrasting the 2004-5 show with the 1999-2000 Carnegie International, Armstrong says this exhibition was introverted, while the previous show was extroverted and playful. In his opinion, both exhibitions accurately reflected their times and captured the vision and temperament of the curators. “The exhibition took a critical view of culture now—both established and emerging artists wanted to participate,” says Hoptman. Armstrong adds, “I can predict that the artists of this show will become the important figures of their generations.”

Says Krainak, “Although politics and philosophy were guiding forces in Hoptman’s selections, the resulting show was far more intimate, despite its large scale and big narratives.” He adds, “To its credit, the International did not try to compete with other popular venues for audience. It directed its attention toward art lovers rather than thrill seekers.”

One of the most beneficial outcomes ofthis year’s exhibition was the creation of the “Friends of the Carnegie International,” a group of contemporary art aficionados and collectors from around the world co-chaired by Milton and Sheila Fine and Jill and Peter Kraus, to help fund the Carnegie International through private donations.

“ I hope this show and its reception has proved that the Carnegie International is an enormously important jewel—for both the American and international cultural scenes,” says Hoptman. “The fact that Pittsburghers are willing to host a show like this is a great example of the stuff that Pittsburghers are made of.”


Carnegie Museum of Art Purchased 27 Works
by Carnegie International Artists

For more than a century, the Carnegie International has served Pittsburgh well as a means to establish an outstanding collection of modern art. That tradition continues with the acquisition of 27 works by artists included in the 2004-5 Carnegie International.

Acquisitions of work in the 2004-5 Carnegie International:
Kutlug Ataman, Kuba, 2004
Kathy Butterly, Lickety, 2002
Kathy Butterly, Trip, 2002
Paul Chan, Happiness (Finally) After 35,000 Years of Civilization—After Henry Darger and Charles Fourier, 2000-2003
Anne Chu, Nine Hellish Spirits No. 2, 2004
Robert Crumb, Fanny and Joe, 2003
Robert Crumb, Untitled (Carnegie International poster), 2004
Peter Doig, Driftwood, 2001-2002
Isa Genzken, Empire/Vampire III, #1, 2004
Mangelos, Manifesto on the machine no. 2, 1977-78
Julie Mehretu, Untitled (Stadia III), 2004
Senga Nengudi, R.S.V.P. XI, 1977/2004

Acquisitions of work by artists included in the
2004-5 Carnegie International:

Tomma Abts, Teete, 2003
Pawel Althamer, Self-Portrait As an Old Man, 2003
John Bock, Farmslave in Massecuschitz (small stage), 1999
Peter Doig, Study for Driftwood, 2003
Trisha Donnelly, Sea Battles, 2003
Saul Fletcher, Untitled #10 (Bathroom Cabinet), 1997
Saul Fletcher, Untitled #23 (Flower Pots), 1997
Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Red Butterfly Over Green), 2003
Rachel Harrison, Utopia, 2002
Carsten Höller, Mushroom Prints, 2004
Jim Lambie, Boy Hairdresser, 2001
Neo Rauch, Art, 2002
Neo Rauch, Rückkehr, 2004
Eva Rothschild, Lighter Later, 2003

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