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Three Exhibitions That Changed Global Art History

Repeating Islands

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A report from the editors of ArtSpace.

This year the Armory Show awkwardly placed curator Jarrett Gregory’s provocative exhibition “Focus” in the back corner of Pier 92 (the floor reserved for mostly Modernist dealers). “Focus” featured 12 artists from around the world whose work addressed socio-political issues ranging from queer politics in Mexico to capitalist systems of Western export in the Congo. The Armory’s decision to keep “Focus” out of focus reminds us of how global mega-exhibitions can be precisely the place where global specificity is lost, drowned amongst the spectacle culture of fairs, biennials, and triennials.

Nigerian-born curator Okwui Enwezor once argued that biennials can still be places for what he referred to as “diasporic public spheres,” in which the global periphery can have a voice in the center without being subsumed by the West. Here are three excerpts from Phaidon’s Biennials and Beyond—Exhibitions That Made Art History: 1962-2002

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