Bradford, the Biennale, and the BMA

Hot Off the Presses, Museum love

The 2017 Venice Biennale is open!  About 50% of you are saying, “OMG I know, right?!” and the other 50% are saying “the Venice what, now?”  And what does it have to do with Jess?

In the simplest terms, it is a huge international art exhibition that takes place in Venice, Italy, every other year. In reality, it’s more than that–it overspills the boundaries of the exhibition space and the city in both literal and metaphorical ways. It’s not just an exhibition but a conversation, a party, a marketplace, and an experiment in urban design. Here’s one way to think of it: The Baltimore Sun recently called it “The Olympics of the Art World.” That sounds about right.

But wait, why does the Baltimore Sun care?  Well, because the commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion for the Biennale this year is the Baltimore Museum of Art’s director, Christopher Bedford. He and the BMA’s Senior Curator for Research and Programming, Katy Siegel, co-curated what looks like a remarkable and inventive installation of work by L.A.-based artist Mark Bradford, titled Tomorrow is Another DayThe pieces are complicated, messy, intimate and decadent. I so wish I could see them in person! (I bet Venice is a lot nicer than Maine this time of year.)

Mark Bradford at the Biennale. Photo H/T Designboom

But wait, why do I care? You guys, this is the fifteen minutes Andy Warhol promised me.  Well no, not really. It more like, this is the moment when I get to follow Emma Stone around on the red carpet and make sure she doesn’t trip on her gown. Well, actually, it’s more like I’m the person that she never met or communicated with directly but who copy edited her thank-you speech.  That sounds about right.

I’ve been doing freelance copy editing for the BMA for about four years now, including several exhibition and collection catalogues, and a lot of work for their new(ish) Contemporary Wing. I didn’t necessarily have reason to expect–but to hope, absolutely!–that they’d ask me to edit and proofread the materials for the Biennale as well, but that’s just what they did. I worked on the brochure, the wall text, and various promotional materials, as well as Bedford’s introduction for the catalogue, which looks gorgeous–and which also includes essays by Zadie Smith (!) and Anita Hill (!!). Which, to be clear, were not edited by me. 😦

No glory for the copy editors, of course–which is just as it should be–you won’t find my name anywhere on the list of credits (I don’t think). My reward (apart from, you know, getting paid) was the sheer, unadulterated thrill of reading all about this (and seeing a leetle bit of the images, though Bradford was, understandably, pretty protective of his work) months and months before almost everyone else. Total art insider moment.

If it’s as hard for you to get to Venice as it is for me, start thinking about Washington in November. Bradford will be creating a modern-day Civil War cyclorama (see? It’s like this was fate for me) called Pickett’s Charge at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. I’m guessing it will gross you out, piss you off, and amaze you all at the same time. Can’t wait.

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