CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.- With nearly 700 million people traveling internationally each year by 2010 there will be one billion tourism has become the largest industry in the world. Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourists Eye (February 12 June 5, 2005) is a fascinating new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, that guides visitors through a journey examining the art, history, and culture of places, spaces, and identities from the point of view of the tourist.
Occupying every exhibition space of the MCA building, including the café, front plaza, plinths, and the sculpture garden, Universal Experience is designed to engage viewers and expand their awareness of what it means to be a tourist. Curator Francesco Bonami, MCA Manilow Senior Curator and former curator of the Venice Biennale, says, The mindset changes when planning for a trip, senses are heightened and passions for new experiences are aroused. Travelers are seeking the extraordinary, an escape from daily routines. This exhibition explores the wide range of how and where we go to find these experiences.
The works in Universal Experience range from large-scale installations and sculptures to more intimate photographs, video footage, and films that address issues relating to tourism, including spectacle, authenticity, souvenir, history, memory, poverty, anthropology, and architecture. The primary focus is on the phenomenon of a group of international visual artists who create work in response to their experience of traveling and living within many various cultures.
Since primitive times, people have marked places they believe to be sacred with alters, temples, and other structures. The first tourists sages and pilgrims seeking meaning set out to find, visit, and learn from these markers. Urban living, easy mobility, and the exchange of capital have transformed how we live, why we travel, and how we see. The contemporary tourist seeks a vista of the past to understand the present. The contemporary artist can be seen as a journalist (the word comes from journey) who reflects on the world and creates new markers and signs.
Over the span of history, certain works of art have transcended their medium and become icons of the era: Nike of Samothrace of classical Greece, Leonardo da Vincis Mona Lisa, and Jeff Koonss contemporary stainless-steel Rabbit, to name a few. As the ability to travel has become more accessible, more people than ever before are experiencing various forms of tourist attractions. In the process, art and art museums have become major tourist destinations. To experience these artworks, however, we no longer need to be traveling within the presence of the object, nor does the object need to remain in its original location. By re-presenting images and assigning them new meanings, both artists and tourists re-circulate and re-interpret views of the world.
Universal Experience features a selection of major, contemporary artists from all over the world, including Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Rem Koolhaas, Maurizio Cattelan, Chris Burden, Diller+Scofidio, Thomas Hirschhorn, Catherine Opie, Vito Acconci, Doug Aitken, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, Katharina Fritsch, Gabriel Orozco, Thomas Schutte, Rirkrit Tiravanija, NL Architects, Martin Parr, Zhan Wang, Piotr Uklanski, Kyoichi Tsuzuki, Alexander Timtschenko, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and Thomas Struth, among others. This exhibition is curated by Manilow Senior Curator Francesco Bonami, assisted by Assistant Curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm and Curatorial Coordinator and Curator of Artists Books, Tricia Van Eck.
FRANCESCO BONAMI, EXHIBITION CURATOR - Francesco Bonami, born in Florence in 1955, is presently the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago, and the artistic director of the Fondazione Sandretto ReRebaudengo per l'Arte in Turin and of Pitti Discovery in Florence. He was a consulting curator for the Arte Povera exhibition organized by the Walker Art Center and Tate Modern in London. He was appointed to the prestigious position of Curator of the International Art Exhibition at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, at which he curated the exhibition Dream & Conflicts in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Economy and the DARC.
At the MCA, Bonami has curated and coordinated many exhibitions including: Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourists Eye, Fiona Tan: Correction, Kai Althoff: Kai Kein Respekt (Kai No Respect), Hiroshi Sugimoto:Architecture; People See Paintings; The Short Century; Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994; Giuseppe Gabellone; Examining Pictures; Unfinished History; and Age of Influence: Reflections in the Mirror of American Culture. He has been the American editor of Flash Art from 1990 to 1997. His curatorial appointments include: LOVE/HATE, from Magritte to Cattelan: Masterpieces from the Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago for the Villa Manin in Passariano, Italy; Manifesta 3 in Ljubliana, Slovenia; Aperto 93 at the Venice Biennale; Tradition and Innovation: Italian Art since 1945 for the National Museum of Seoul; the second Site Santa Fe Biennal; Campo '95; Campo 6; L.A. Times and Common People at the Fondazione Sandretto ReRebaudengo per l'Arte in Torino, Italy; Vertical Time at Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York; Yesterday Begins Tomorrow at the Bard College for Curatorial Studies; Unfinished History at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the MCA; Examining Pictures at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London and the MCA; and Age of Influence at the MCA.
Recently he curated The Fourth Sex: The Extreme People of Adolescence and Uniform: Order and Disorder for Pitti Immagine in Florence and P.S.1 MoMA in New York, and Chain of Visions: Family, Religion and Politics in the New Generation of Italian Art for the Hara Museum in Tokyo, in collaboration with the Fondazione Sandretto ReRebaudengo.
Accompanying the exhibition is a fully-illustrated catalogue that features an essay by Francesco Bonami and a wide-ranging anthology of texts meant to guide readers and viewers through the cultural conventions and symbols created, deciphered, and disseminated by an international group of artists. The catalogue is presented in a similar structure to a travel guidebook, but rather than the chapters reflecting a physical itinerary of the exhibition, it is a mental itinerary of ideas related to travel. Functioning as both a guidebook and as a souvenir, the exhibition catalogue presents a range of diverse artworks as icons and as tourist sites for exploration.The catalogue retails for $29.95 and will be available in the MCA Store.