Can’t Wait for the Carnegie International? You Don’t Have to—Pittsburgh’s Already Awash In Pre-Game Programming

Curator Koyo Kouoh is among the participants organizing programming ahead of the main event this October.

Curator Koyo Kouoh, 2016. Courtesy of Raw Material and Koyo Kouoh.
Curator Koyo Kouoh, 2016. Courtesy of Raw Material and Koyo Kouoh.

In recent years, it has become de rigueur for major international exhibitions like documenta to host symposia, lectures, and other public programming long before the show opens, as a way to set the intellectual stage before the main event.

The 57th Carnegie International at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art is now following suit. Though the show doesn’t officially launch until October, the pre-game is already well underway.

“The question that I had in my research and my travels was, ‘How does the contemporary take hold in our ever-expanding art world, and who are the artists and curators who are making space for showing art and talking and learning about it?'” said the exhibition’s organizer, Ingrid Schaffner, who was previously chief curator at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art from 2010 to 2015.

One of Schaffner’s first choices for participants was Koyo Kouoh, the founding director of RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal. Kouoh was also a member of the curatorial teams for documenta 12 and documenta 13, and head of educational programming for the 1:54 fair of contemporary African art in New York and London.

Lunch in Dakar, including Ingrid Schaffner, Carin Kuoni, Koyo Kouoh, Sumesh Sharma, Satch Hoyt, Mara Ambrožič, Chiara Bertola, Marita Muukkonen, Carole Diop, and others. Courtesy of Ingrid Schaffner.

Lunch in Dakar, with Ingrid Schaffner, Carin Kuoni, Koyo Kouoh, Sumesh Sharma, Satch Hoyt, Mara Ambrožič, Chiara Bertola, Marita Muukkonen, Carole Diop, and others. Courtesy of Ingrid Schaffner.

Kouoh, who lives between Senegal and Switzerland, kicked off her two-week stay with a lecture last week on institution building as a curatorial practice. In addition to a seminar in Pittsburgh, Kouoh will curate an exhibition-within-an-exhibition, titled “Dig Where You Stand,” consisting of objects drawn from the Carnegie Museum of Art’s holdings.

“This is my first research visit,” Kouoh told artnet News. “I came here to meet the collection and mine the collection, so the show’s title, ‘Dig Where You Stand,’ has to provide multiple readings, about the idea of mining, which is part of the culture of the region, and mining the collection, which presents a vast collection of multiple art historical stories, and also in the sense of understanding not just Pittsburgh as a city but the museum as a site.” The show will deal, she said in a press release, with “urgent conversations about living in a state of coloniality.”

Kouoh has experience with this kind of work from RAW, which hosts residency programs for international artists, writers, and curators. “RAW Material was established out of a need to have a space to engage and experience art from a different perspective from just contemplation and the art world’s socialite aspects,” said Kouoh. “It’s about looking at art as an integral part of building society, as a system of thinking in its own right, that is participative to the polis.”

Other upcoming events under the Carnegie International umbrella include a visit in April by Kenyan photographer Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, who will conduct one of the “Tam O’Shanter Drawing Sessions,” in which guest artists lead visitors in various forms of mark-making, from doodling to cartooning to map-making. (The sessions are named for the Scottish beret, often topped with a pompom, in honor of founder Andrew Carnegie’s Scottish heritage.) These sessions have been ongoing since spring 2016.

Ingrid Schaffner; Photo: Constance Mensh, courtesy of Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania

Ingrid Schaffner. Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1896 as an annual exhibition (making it the world’s second-oldest recurring global survey), the Carnegie International takes place every three to five years. Past editions have been organized by curators including Lynne Cooke and Mark Francis (1991), Madeleine Grynsztejn (1999), and Laura Hoptman (2004).

The International is newly certified by W.A.G.E., or Working Artists and the Greater Economy, which advocates, among other causes, for artists to be paid for their participation in group exhibitions.

The 57th Carnegie International, at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art, will be on view from October 13, 2018–March 25, 2019.


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