Like the lotus, which blooms from the murky depths of the swamp, New Orleans is a thing of improbable beauty.
That, at least, is the guiding metaphor behind Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, a citywide art spectacular that will open Nov. 18 and run through February.
"It's from a quote by saxophonist Archie Shepp, who described jazz as a lily that grows in spite of the swamp," P.4 artistic director Trevor Schoonmaker said Tuesday at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, announcing the framework and artist lineup for the exhibition.
“When I first came across (the quotation) I thought it was the perfect metaphor for the exhibition,” said Schoonmaker. “Art helps bring the invisible to light.”
Now held once every three years, Prospect debuted in 2008. On Tuesday, Schoonmaker and Prospect New Orleans interim director Ylva Rouse outlined some key facts about the upcoming exhibition.
With 73 artists from North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Europe represented, P.4 will be considerably larger than the last installment, which opened in 2014.
About 10 percent of the artists are from the greater New Orleans area.
“In considering which artists to include, I was struck by how many artists I was looking at that were producing work that already resonates with the spirit of New Orleans,” Schoonmaker said.
The exhibition will be spread over 17 locations on both sides of the river, including traditional venues like the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center as well as outdoor locations like Crescent Park and the Lafitte Greenway.
The exhibition will also be returning to such locations as the Old U.S. Mint on Esplanade Avenue for the first time since the original Prospect New Orleans in 2008.
In keeping with the spirit of the exhibition, several installations will take place in parts of the city not usually regarded as fine-art destinations.
Internationally regarded art superstar Kara Walker will create a site-specific work in Algiers Point. The Algiers ferry itself will feature an installation by Nigerian-born artist Odili Ronald Odita.
New York City-based Derrick Adams will create a multimedia installation for the Riverfront streetcar line. And the late Barkley L. Hendricks will be honored with a show of work that had not been exhibited prior to his death last month.
In all, more than 30 artists will be creating work specifically for the exhibition.
Schoonmaker outlined several broad themes that the exhibition will encompass, including the legacy of colonialism, the relationships between humans and their environment, and music.
And what Schoonmaker calls the “unique urban tropicality” of New Orleans will be a constant presence throughout the exhibition, both literally and conceptually.
“The upcoming tricentennial is a unique opportunity to think about the city’s specific locality,” he said. “P.4 will build on New Orleans' culture and history.”
As with past iterations, Rouse said that P.4 will also promote dozens of satellite exhibitions around the city under the “PS” umbrella.
It’s an event that will turn the entire city into a major arts destination for residents and visitors alike.
Learn more at prospectneworleans.org.