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Searching the Globe for the 2008 Carnegie International

As a curator—who as a child had to be dragged into art museums by his mother—Douglas Fogle understands contemporary art isn’t always the easiest thing for people to get. All the more reason, he says, to stay relevant. And that’s what he’s looking for in his travels.















Douglas Fogle and Walker Art Center Curator Doryun Chong in front of an art installation by Seoul-based artist Choi Jeong-Hwa (b. 1961).

The creative mastermind behind the next Carnegie International is—a lawyer? Not quite. But Douglas Fogle, curator of the 2008 exhibition, did once follow that path, and his interdisciplinary approach to his work—and the world—is sure to make a show that delivers a variety of perspectives.

Fogle, who studied political philosophy and international relations before being lured into film and art history (which he taught but never studied) as part of an interdisciplinary program in graduate school, likens contemporary art to “taking the everyday and making it strange,” and the Carnegie International to a feeding ground for the best his field has to offer.

“ So much of the economy in Pittsburgh is all about research and development, whether it’s at CMU or Pitt’s Medical Center. Robotics, new ways of computing, breakthroughs in genetics—it’s about the new,” says Fogle. “The International, in particular, but contemporary art, in general, in many ways is our R&D for cultural history. It’s staying relevant, keeping things interesting. Art is important, and it has an important place in people’s lives.”

While he says it’s still too early to reveal the central idea powering the 2008 exhibition, Fogle does have a goal that fits with this idea, borrowing from literary critic Victor Shklovsky’s premise that a poet’s—in this case artist’s—work is to make one look at the world in a new and interesting way.

“ To make you see what you see every day, what habitually you don’t pay attention to, to make you see it differently,” says Fogle, who arrived in Pittsburgh a little more than a year ago following 11 years at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where he was most recently curator of visual art. “Regardless of what type of show I do, I want someone to leave having had a multi-faceted experience. I want them leaving seeing the world a little differently than they did walking in. Hopefully from 40 or so international perspectives.”

Fogle selected a four-person advisory committee (see article page 7) in this same vein, all of them writers and curators, rather than artists, representing an intergenerational mix with varying levels of experience. All provide an expertise to supplement Fogle’s own skill and knowledge base.

A Truly International Investigation
He spent all of September on the road, concluding the trip in Baden Baden, Germany, meeting with his advisory committee and Richard Armstrong, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art. The first part of the month was spent in East Asia with key visits to the inaugural Singapore and Gwangju, Korea, Biennales—two large international exhibitions—and in Seoul and Tokyo researching artists. He was back home in Pittsburgh for just two weeks in early October before taking off again, this time for studio visits in London.

Over the past decade Fogle has traveled extensively internationally, and before his search is over for the 2008 International—in about just six months—Fogle plans to return to Argentina, Brazil (to Sao Paulo for another well-known international exhibition), China, India, and Mexico, and hopes to visit Eastern Europe, Africa (although he isn’t sure what country yet), possibly Thailand and Vietnam. And although the recent war had first dampened hope, he may still get to Beirut.

Over the past year, he’s visited New York City and Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, San Antonio, Toronto, Istanbul, Oslo, Stockholm, Zurich, Basel, and Berlin to meet with artists, see exhibitions, or in most cases both. Fogle considers himself an artist-oriented curator, and in October he said he had “four or five artists in his head”—and with that, the “connective tissue of the exhibition” was starting to form. He meets with his advisors again in February and by May he hopes to have a complete list of artists.

It’s likely some of the artists will create new work specifically for the exhibition and, one or two may even fashion projects related to Pittsburgh or the historic Carnegie Museums campus in Oakland.
“ That would be ideal for me,” says Fogle. “You don’t want to force that as a curator, but you want to provide the opportunity to have artists here interacting with the community even before the exhibition.”

This idea also fits with his vision to bring the International beyond a single venue, further connecting the world’s second oldest international contemporary art exhibition to the city that has housed it for more than a century. He says he likes what he’s seen of past exhibitions that ventured beyond the walls of Carnegie Museum of Art and he hopes in creative ways to extend it to all four Carnegie Museums, the grounds of the Oakland facility, and perhaps to other institutional partners in the arts and education communities. “It’s too soon to guess what this may look like,” Fogle adds, but he’s certain it would benefit everyone.

“ When you activate these kinds of spaces it makes it a more interesting experience for the viewer and it’s a way to get them into the galleries before they get into the galleries,” he says. “This institution is incredibly important to the city and to those growing up here. We need to reach out and stay relevant and interesting.”

The 55th Carnegie International is scheduled to open May 3, 2008.

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