Biennale de Lyon 2015-2019

New thematic trilogy “Modern”

Curator of the 2015 edition: Ralph Rugoff

Thierry Raspail, artistic director of the Biennale de Lyon, about the new theme:

“Since co-curating the first three Biennales from 1991-1995, I have invited each guest curator to reflect on a word which, to my mind, sums up what is happening in art today. This word spans three editions, and provides the framework for a trilogy covering six years. The journey therefore covers quite a time – indeed, it is almost a history in itself…

For 2015, and until 2019, I have chosen to explore MODERN, both a substantive and a qualifier. Modern is not modernism, nor is it modernity; but it can contain them, grab them, express them. What’s more, we know perfectly well, and have done for a long time – at least since Rimbaud – that “one must be absolutely modern”.

Today, everything is modern: the neo-modernism sweeping through the visual arts, the vintage charm at work in design, and the “re-enactment” that turns history into a subjective present.

An anthropological survey of the Moderns – in the plural – has been written (Bruno Latour), which leaves us its singularity. Does the modern have a singularity? With regard to art, what is its “mode of existence”?

Today, the pre, the post, the hyper, the “alter” and the anti are unfailingly modern. And yet the modern, in the avant-garde era, made a distinction between the artist’s “domain of choice” and the wasteland around it. Since then, the late modern – with the postmodern – has discovered flux, bricolage and the hybrid at the same time as subordinate cultures, the vernacular and the Other. The modern has sought in vain to “shake off” the dominant Western zeitgeist that actually gave rise to it, whereas Africa, China and India – to put it very briefly – have accepted and expanded it. And now notions like folkmodern and transmodern are emerging…

With interconnectivity having erased the “discordance of time” dear to traditional historiographers, there remains a single, global modern age. We will endeavour to clarify its diffractions, measure its impedance, and pinpoint the rifts and bumps that it encounters.”

Ralph Rugoff, curator of  Biennale de Lyon 2015

Ralph Rugoff is Director of the Hayward Gallery in London. Since his appointment in 2006, he has curated numerous exhibitions including Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture, The Painting of Modern Life, Invisible: Art About the Unseen, 1957-2012, and The Alternative Guide to the Universe, as well as monographic exhibitions on Ed Ruscha, George Condo, Jeremy Deller and Tracey Emin.

From 2000-2006, he was Director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art in San Francisco where organized approximately one dozen exhibitions, including Baja to Vancouver, the first survey of artists living along North America’s West Coast, and solo projects by artists such as Mike Kelley, Roni Horn, Thomas Hirschhorn, Ann Veronica Janssens, and Mike Nelson.

Prior to that, he worked as an independent curator and critic, organizing shows at venues such as the Serpentine Gallery in London (The Greenhouse Effect, 2000) and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (Scene of the Crime, 1996). His first exhibition, Just Pathetic (1990-91) was cited by Artforum magazine as being one of the most influential exhibitions of the decade.

As a writer, Rugoff has contributed essays to catalogs and books on artists such as David Hammons, Paul McCarthy, Luc Tuymans, Michel Blazy, Jean-Luc Mylayne, and the filmmaker Jean Painlevé. In addition, he is the author of Circus Americanus, a collection of essays on popular visual culture and architecture. In 2005, he won the inaugural Ordway Prize for Criticism and Curating from the Penny McCall Foundation in the United States.

Photo: Ralph Rugoff. Courtesy Biennale de Lyon