Grenada and Mongolia used similar tactics. Gantuya Badamgarav, Mongolia’s most vociferous art patron, also enacted a Kickstarter to help get the nomadic nation to Venice. Alas, the campaign only generated $820 dollars, a mere fraction of the $200,000 it was aiming for. But, through a government-promoted fundraiser and local businesses of Ulaanbaatar, the pavilion found its Medicis.
It’s not difficult to conceive why governments would actively engender this opportunity—culture entices tourism, and art signifies a healthy social ecosystem. But it’s not just good PR that these nations are seeking. Unen Enkh, one of the two artists representing Mongolia, who asked to be not quoted directly, sums it up best: These artists are not making folk or tribal art, but rather are engaged in contemporary practices, a notion unfamiliar to most art world perceptions of these countries. His work, for example, incorporates horsehair, felt, leather, and other natural materials found in the steppes of Mongolia, but he manipulates them in unnatural ways, a conceptual twist that skates between two realms. He shows alongside Enkhbold Togmidshiirev, who presents a performance piece (captured on video) of his self-created “ger,” or home-structure that he erects in the midst of big cities, on beaches and highway shoulders. The work is sophisticated, and would be right at home in many of the contemporary institutions of Berlin, New York, or Hong Kong.