What constitutes an ‘international exhibition’? It’s a question worth asking in light of Open Cube, the White Cube’s new open submission exhibition at Mason’s Yard, London.
Curated by Sao Paulo-based writer and curator Adriano Pedrosa, the exhibition is an interesting departure for art world colossus White Cube. Invited by the gallery to conceive and curate a show, earlier this year Pedrosa launched a process of open submission via the website Art Agenda. The aim was to open up the curatorial process beyond existing networks, and in so doing challenge the perceived closed systems that exist when identifying artists for exhibiting.
It’s a laudable idea, and the results are an exhibition featuring 17 artists from across the globe, including Brazil, the Netherlands, Portugal, USA, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the UK. Yet while the artists do indeed hail from many different countries, all but one of them lives and works in London.
When that figure hits home, the show’s billing as ‘an international group exhibition’ seems a little less convincing. Despite the open process employed, Open Cube appears to largely be a show that reflects the kind of work being made by an unsurprisingly international cast of artists who live and work in the UK capital. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s a different thing, isn’t it?
Perhaps in a way this makes the show all the more interesting. After going through a process that attracted over 2900 applications, after shortlisting it to 38 artists who Pedrosa then interviewed in March and April, 16 of the 17 artists chosen work and live in a truly international city with a buoyant art market. Well, why wouldn’t you?
Perhaps the list of artists can simply be explained by the fact that the compulsory interviews took place in London; it’s a long way to travel from, say, Brazil, on the off-chance that your work might be accepted, even if the show is at White Cube. (The one artist who isn’t London-based, Daniel de Paula, lives ‘between Itapevi, Sao Paulo and Paris’.) But if that’s the reason, it does suggest that the notion of challenging the way artists are chosen for shows hasn’t been thought through; that it’s an idea that looks good on paper rather than a serious attempt at subverting the process.
The resulting show sees White Cube’s lower level gallery hosting various forms of abstraction, including geometric, constructivist and amorphous imagery. On the ground floor, Pedrosa has explored the concepts of the ‘white cube’, plus notions of public and private spaces, and value and currency.
Open Cube, says Pedrosa, seeks ‘to contest… national boundaries as well as the very identity of White Cube itself.’ Paradoxically, though, it seems to reinforce the idea that if it’s not who you know that counts, where you live and work comes a close second.
Open Cube runs until 21 September 2013. whitecube.com