The Brucennial began in 2008 at our first studio, a former weed growing operation next to the High Times Deliverance Church on the edge of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy under the JMZ. Whether or not we were ‘putting on a show,’ we were always on view. People would stop by. And at some point we had the bright idea to ask them to bring in whatever they made and put it on the walls. And so a hundred or so friends and friends of friends came over and we made the first Brucennial.
Since that auspicious beginning the Brucennial has expanded into larger spaces including hundreds more artists from all over the world. It has grown into an unmistakable and vital infusion of energy into the New York scene, a bold proclamation that artists truly are the center of the art world. But the spirit of the show remains the same. It’s not a curated group show or an anointment ceremony into the art market or a “taking of the temperature” or a codification of style. It’s a celebration of, and catalyst for, an ever-widening community of artists.
Why the last?
It’s our interest to design circumstances that grow this community, both in numbers and in critical depth, beyond the limitations of a temporary exhibition.
In 2009 we founded a free art school, BHQFU, in a former Sufi book store in Tribeca. Five years later, we’ve moved to the East Village, and BHQFU has grown into a truly remarkable experiment in artistic community with over 700 enrolled students, a summer residency program,and even a forthcoming production of the musical, West Side Story.
With all this momentum we think the right thing to do is to take the energy and resources that have made The Brucennial a successful community moment, and direct them toward the activities of BHQFU: expanding our class offerings, residency opportunities, and studentorganized exhibitions, publications, and other showcases.
So this is it. The grand finale. The coup de grâce. The Last Brucennial. It’s going to be amazing.
Too often what we think of now when we think of the art world is the art market – its collectors, dealers, curators, and academic professionals – who’s in whose collection, which biennial, or on the cover of a magazine. And while that aspect of the universe of art may be incontrovertible, it isn’t foundational.
The foundation of art remains the artists themselves: the conversations they are creating with each other, with art of the past, and with the wider world. These conversations begin in the studio, through the experience of other art works, in conversation with other artists. They rarely begin in the commercial sphere. And they certainly can’t end there. An art world built solely to feed the industry isn’t an interesting place to live. And we think the industry largely agrees!
And so BHQFU is an effort to encourage and expand the actual foundation of art. Its purpose is to create new communion between artists, to develop and deepen the exchanges artists have with their work and each other. In casual conversation BHQFU is called a school. But this is not an MFA program. When artists have to take on debt so that they might spend time learning from each other, conversations about art are overwhelmed by conversations about art careers. There is already plenty of motivation in the world to figure out how to pay the rent. That’s not what we do at BHQFU. The fact that our classes are free of charge is simply a necessary tactic toward a greater strategy of freedom. We believe that greater artistic freedom is the result of the active pursuit of crisis – of bringing ideas to the breaking point - through the cultivation of difference.
BHQFU is a learning experiment. It’s an experiment in the sense that we are trying out ways to learn from each other, we’re evaluating the results as we go, and we’re refining our approach. We don’t expect to develop the perfect method. But we do intend to continually perfect our method.