Lucky Number Seven

SITE Santa Fe's Biennial 2008


SITE Santa Fe, located in a former beer warehouse in the developing Railyard Arts District next to the old tracks that connect to the main line, has been a standout in contemporary art since its opening exhibition in 1997. These past 10 years have brought significant yet often nearly unobtrusive changes in the art sector here since the 1980s when a few powerful men and women ran successful galleries that defined a certain “Santa Fe style” in art. Now that style is pretty much relegated to a few galleries on the charmingly historic Canyon Road. Slowly, quietly—to outside eyes, at least, as we Santa Feans love to argue about anything that affects our opinions about what makes this a special place to live—New Mexico’s capital city has become an increasingly important global destination for contemporary art. And that status is largely due to the presence of SITE Santa Fe, home to the only international biennial exhibition in the United States.

Lance Fung

The year 2008 marks the seventh such show of art to be curated by New York-based Lance Fung. To get a sense of Fung’s art aesthetic, it helps to know that he is best known for curating The Snow Show, held in Torino, Italy, during the 2006 Winter Olympics. (For more information and a slide show, go to The New York Times’ article). For that event, Fung invited artists and architectural teams to work with compacted snow and ice to create large, experimental installations of stunningly pristine artworks. It was the excitement and promise of teamwork that led to Fung’s concept for his 2008 biennial, to which he invited arts institutions from around the world to work with artists in collaboration with him and SITE Santa Fe to create the 2008 Biennial Curatorial Team. Confirmed to line up with Fung for what he is calling the Lucky Number Seven show are curators from 19 art centers and organizations in England, Spain, Italy, Australia, Bulgaria, France, Turkey, Austria, South Korea, Poland, Canada, Egypt, China, Mexico, Germany, and of course, the United States, including the local Museum of the Institute of American Indian Arts. Each institution head, in turn, chose artists for Fung’s review.

Fung remains, despite the depth of collaboration he has invoked for this biennial, “a very hands-on curator.” Each piece will be, in his words, “part of a chorus” that reflects Fung’s preferences for site-specific, ephemeral works of art—as opposed to traditional painting, photography, and sculpture, objects that can be sold to collectors and museums. From an interview published The New Mexican in August 2007, the venture will work like this: “[The artists’] projects will be conceived in advance but made here in three weeks with their own two hands…. We provide the materials, but they make the art, and we throw it away. At the end of the show, none of the works of art will exist as works of art.” This is a concept that surely challenges the more standard view of art as an object that somehow transcends time by its ongoing and unvarying availability to the public across hundreds of years. Fung’s model is, indeed, one of contemporary art’s most magnificent–and to some minds, most ridiculous–contributions to our understanding of the definition of art itself: art as an action, an idea, an event outside the limits of time and space.

The identities of the artists themselves remained secret until January, when it was revealed that some two dozen artists were participating. Interestingly, of the five women artists, four are from northern New Mexico: SITE’s choice of Nadine Robinson and IAIA Museum’s family of Santa Clara women, Nora and Eliza Naranjo-Morse and Rose Simpson. With the final list confirmed, the artists visited Santa Fe for tours of the downtown Plaza area, the “oldest house in the US,” San Miguel Mission, the “miraculous” staircase at Loretto Chapel, and Santa Fe schools, museums, and galleries. The less touristy Southside was to be included on the artists’ itineraries, as well as architectural tours, and plenty of meetings with Fung in order to discuss artists’ ideas for the exhibition, slated to open in late June and run through October. Following their initial visits to Santa Fe, each artist will, working closely with Fung, develop a proposal for a unique work of art. Once a proposition has been definitively honed into an operational plan, staffers at SITE Santa Fe begin the process of realization of the artwork, acquiring and preparing materials for the artists’ return in June to manifest their art in its wildly varied physical forms. Each artist has approximately three weeks to create and install—with the expertise of SITE’s seasoned employees—their work. States Fung, “I want to redefine the biennial through collaboration and offer a new approach in keeping with the history of SITE’s Biennials. My goals are to raise awareness of SITE itself, showcase the flavor of each collaborator, inspire learning, and bring people together for a broad sea change in visual arts programming.” Certainly, Fung’s process is more aggressively collaborative than that of any previous biennial exhibition.

Continues Fung, “I am hoping that a natural exchange will take place between all of the participating artists and SITE Santa Fe, allowing for a real discourse to develop. The artists…could partner with another invited artist or work individually. The works could be in the exhibition space [at SITE Santa Fe], the town, the desert, or online…. I hope that the Biennial will include artists committed to a range of differing, heterogeneous ideologies….” With Fung at the helm, that seems assured. The curator views the three critical elements to this exhibition as process, experimentation, and collaboration. He adds, “I am not trying to find the best artists from around the world. What I want to do is find the best institutions from all around the world.” By curating institutions before individual artists, Fung is not only allowing for a new biennial interpretation of the curator, he is opening the biennial experience to include the visitor. In fashioning the modus operandi of the Biennial, Fung asked himself, “What would be interesting for people in Santa Fe?” That sense of discourse, more than finding the next art stars—and most international biennials and art fairs these days seem to be about celebrity, not art—is what is driving the man behind Lucky Number Seven.



Lucky Number Seven
June 22–October 26, 2008
SITE Santa Fe
1606 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe, NM
Wed-Sat: 10am–5pm · Fri: 10am–7pm
Sun: 12pm–5pm · Closed Mon & Tue
General: $10 · Students & Seniors: $5
SITE Santa Fe Members: Free
Fridays: Free

Thanks to SITE Santa Fe remote

Originally appeared in
The Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe and Taos - Volume 22

Related Pages

Contemporary Art in Northern NM article

Art Over The Edge article

Collector’s Resources