London Biennale Makes Appearance in Boston

The London Biennale sponsored a Boston satellite event on August nineteenth, called Curated Salon, which, according to the event’s organizers, is “what Boston does best: an evening of brilliant conversation.” This is the third time that the London Biennale, a community of artists and the events growing out of it (and not restricted to London), has collaborated with Boston non-profit TransCultural Exchange on a local event.

TransCultural Exchange is dedicated to promoting international art and appreciation of cultural differences via art exhibitions, cultural exchanges, and educational programs around the world. For this Curated Salon, a general call was put out to the public through limited media, such as WBUR radio and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The only requirement was that each invited artist had to bring a non-artist for an evening of cocktails and conversation, out of which it was hoped that new projects and collaborations would arise.

As guests arrived at the Hampshire House, above the bar Cheers, they were asked to choose a persona, which could be anyone—Jean-Paul Sartre, Frida Kahlo, Melanie Griffith, or Aphrodite. The guests’ task was to find their match and perhaps do some role-playing. Clive Barrow would find Bonnie Parker, Jackson Pollock would find Lee Krasner, and so on, with the aim of generating meaningful artistic dialog from these chance encounters.

Event coordinator Mary Sherman says she was at a loss for a theme until Ute Meta Bauer, associate professor and director of the visual arts program at MIT, proposed a cocktail party. Sherman says people were in disbelief that they could be part of the London Biennale just by sipping drinks, but she adds, “I think life is complicated. Sometimes, when things are simple, great things happen. We get people together who are really interested in meeting other people. Who knows what will happen after tonight.”

With their new “masks” on, the guests posed for the camera so that David Medalla, the artist who founded the London Biennale in 1998, can Photoshop their likeness with an arrow in front of Piccadilly Circus and then stage an exhibition, performance, or event.
Sherman relates how this event at Hampshire House is a microcosm of artists in residency programs. TransCultural Exchange hosts a conference where worldwide directors of these programs come to promote their programs and also do portfolio reviews. Selected artists receive stipends to work together at diverse venues, such as a castle in Germany. This “research lab [and] post-grad school,” culminates in an exhibition. About a third of the artists attending the conference make it overseas in residency.

The next conference, titled 2011 Conference on International Opportunities in the Arts: The Interconnected World, will take place at Boston’s Omni Parker House Hotel next April. TransCultural Exchange calls the conference, “the international forum for emerging and established artists, cultural administrators, residency directors, teachers, critics and curators providing a unique cross-disciplinary platform to network, showcase, support and promote artists’ work.”