Adam Lindemann explains how the Venice Biennale functions as an art fair. Curiously, the crucial role in making the event more market oriented is played by the curator, Bice Curiger. Lindemann explains how American curators lack their European counter-part’s market bravado:
In the United States, curators generally have limited knowledge of the market and usually shy away from any artist or show that could be construed as having market-related implications. These curators will claim that an artist is a market phenomenon only, and not worthy of museum treatment. Unfortunately, this has been the case in the United States with Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and many other artists the American public would like to see but doesn’t get to, as our curators are too insecure to mount an exhibition that is in any way risky. Most European museums are state owned, or publicly funded, meaning their curators don’t have to answer to boards of trustees. Free of bureaucracy, they can take more chances.
Europe’s curators wield tremendous influence over its collectors, and regularly flex their muscles; their inclusion—or exclusion—of artists has meaningful implications. In Venice, Ms. Curiger chose a long list of young artists, and the world’s wealthy collectors flew in to see their work. The artists’ dealers were waiting, ready to sell—and did. The exclusive opening days of the Biennale now double as a curated art fair, with the only difference being that dealers don’t have to pay for a booth. […]
The Biennale may not be an art fair—the pieces are still selected by a curator—but it’s all for sale. Much as I detest nostalgia for the “good old days,” this time I found Venice overrun by dealers, collectors and the overwhelming smell of commerce.