MASSIMILIANO GIONI: Experimental Jet Setter

Feb 11, 2014 4:26PM

Massimiliano Gioni curated last year’s blockbuster show,“NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star,”at the New Museum in New York. Ahead of our 90s to Now online-only sale, Christie’s spoke with Gioni about the legacy of a new direction in art history marked by the 90s, and the current state of artistic experimentation.

Christie’s: Why choose 1993 as the nexus point — not ‘92 or ‘94?

Gioni: We chose 1993 for a variety of reasons — partially because it was exactly 20 years ago. But, second, it was the year of the Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale. In the ‘93 [Venice] Biennale, there were artists like Rudolf Stingel, [Félix] González-Torres, like Maurizio Cattelan, like John Currin. Many of the artists were showing in Venice for the first time — for example, Damien Hirst and many others. Many of them had just moved to New York. I think both the Whitney Biennial and the Aperto at the ’93 Venice Biennale signaled a watershed moment at that time.

Christie’s: Why do you think the artists who didn’t “make it” didn’t make it?

Gioni: This idea that art is a career and somebody "makes it" and somebody doesn’t is not what I think the show was about and what art is about. I’m interested in shows that capture a variety of ways of “making it.” Of making that thing that we call art. And I don’t want to idealize it, but maybe that’s what also that particular moment in art was about. It was still OK just to make things, without necessarily making "it."

Maybe something we can learn from the 1993 show is that our hierarchies, thank god, are not fixed, and that it only takes some artist that [to teach] us to look back at the work of other artists, and the hierarchies change and shift. So an artist who might be away from the spotlight now will be embraced differently maybe in a few years.

Christie's: Still, as you noted yourself, some of these artists, duly or unduly, have disappeared from the spotlight since 1993. For those that have, do you think it’s in part because the rules have changed so much in the last 20 years? Does today’s art world require something different of an artist than it did before 1993?

Gioni: On one hand, I think things are just happening and they’re out there and artists are trying different ways to make art — and nothing has really changed in 20 years. On the other hand, yes, it is somehow apparent that there is some sort of hyper-professionalization of art. I don’t think in ‘93 anybody would call himself a curator, for example, and that is already a symptom of the increasing professionalization of the art world.

On the other hand, I don’t like to say that things were better then. The great thing about art is that it re-invents itself and re-invents the modes of profusion and circulation. You know, [Jean] Dubuffet said art never sleeps in the bed that was made for her. And I think it a very accurate definition.

Read more from this interview here, and view our 90s to Now online-only sale, which runs from February 6 – 20, 2014, to get more information on young talent as well as a glimpse at the early work of established artists.

(Photo by Marco De Scalzi, courtesy of The New Museum.)