Prospect New Orleans has seen its share of ups and downs since the citywide art biennial was first announced seven years ago, from its first splashy, sprawling iteration in the fall of 2008 to a series of financial and managerial setbacks that caused the delayed opening of subsequent installments.
Now, less than six months before Prospect.3 opens, it seems to be on the verge of becoming what it set out to be: a true New Orleans art institution with a global reach and focus.
At a press conference at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on May 14, Prospect New Orleans executive director Brooke Davis Anderson and artistic director Franklin Sirmans officially introduced the upcoming exhibition to the public.
According to Anderson and Sirmans, Prospect.3 will feature works from 64 artists from over two dozen countries, spread out over 15 exhibition spaces in the New Orleans metropolitan area.
The numbers put Prospect.3 somewhere between the sizes of the first and second full iterations of the biennial. (Prospect 1.5, a smaller stopgap exhibition focusing more on New Orleans and Southeastern U.S. artists, was on view for three months over the winter of 2010-2011.)
The exhibition is subtitled “Notes for Now,” a concept that Sirmans, who curated the show, said is integral to understanding how the biennial was conceived.
“ ‘Notes for now’ refers to ways of looking at contemporary art in our own historical moment,” said Sirmans, who is also curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“It’s a conversation that will in some ways be specific to New Orleans, but will also relate to the way that contemporary art is discussed in other environments.”
As far as the New Orleans component of that conversation is concerned, Prospect.3 will include several locally based artists, as well as artists from elsewhere who have examined New Orleans-related themes and motifs in their work.
Sirmans pointed to a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat (subject of a “show with a show” exhibition at the Ogden Museum during the run of Prospect.3) as well as a site-specific film piece by Peruvian artist David Zink Yi slated for display at the Contemporary Arts Center as examples of artists whose work engages in a dialogue with the Crescent City.
Music is another theme that will play a part in several of the Prospect installations this fall, including ones by Peruvian-American multimedia artist William Cordova and the West Coast-based Los Jaichackers (Julio Cesar Morales and Eamon Ore-Girón), whose work combines music, film, video, sculpture, installation and performance.
But Sirmans also pointed out that in keeping with the tradition of international art biennials, the artists chosen for Prospect.3 reflect a variety of global concerns, styles and ways of seeing.
“The list includes artists who I’m interested in, as well as artists whose work I may not fully understand but which has stayed with me in some way,” said Sirmans. “Different people will view the list of artists differently.”
A full list of artists is available at www.prospectneworleans.org.
Prospect.3 will open to the public on Oct. 25 in 15 venues across New Orleans including the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center, along with smaller and alternative arts organizations such as the McKenna Museum of African-American Art, Longue Vue House and Gardens, and the May Gallery & Residency in the St. Claude Arts District.
The exhibitions will remain on view until Jan. 25.
In addition, a series of satellite exhibitions by local artists and art organizations — collectively referred to as P.3+ — will take place over the course of the main biennial dates. And a P.3+Regional program will extend the artistic offerings to the cities of Baton Rouge, Hammond, and Lafayette.
Sirmans refers to the various exhibition venues as “nodes”, which will give the works on display an opportunity to “speak” to one another.
“Visual art is a means of discussion,” he said — and by all accounts so far, Prospect.3 promises to be an artistic discussion worth engaging in.