Postcard from Italy

Elaine Olafson Henry Ceramics Art + Perception 109 2018 Art + Perception Home

When I was the one writing the editorial for this journal, several years ago I wrote about the worldwide biennials that were labeled as international. In most cases, the majority of the panel of jurors were from the country or region of the venue for the juried exhibition, with the minority of the panel being from other regions of the globe. In the case of Faenza, this was definitely the modus operendi in the past. There would be five jurors with four of them being from Faenza and Rome, or other parts of Italy and the fifth was usually from Europe.

Without claiming that my voice had an effect on the changes, Taiwan took steps to change the nature of their selection of work. Now, for alternating biennials, Taiwan implements a two-step process to select a curator who has international knowledge of contemporary ceramics. That curator proposes a theme and then selects the artists within that theme, spreading the opportunities to all corners of the world. Kudos to them.

The Museum of International Ceramics (MIC) in Faenza states on their website about The Premio Faenza:

From its first regional edition in 1932, then national in 1938, the competition recorded remarkable development. In 1963 the competition was extended to an international level and in 1989 it became a biennial event.

At the end of my conversation with one of the five Italian jurors, when I pressed about the disproportionate number of Italians in the exhibition, he reluctantly said that it was political.

This year, then, was their 60th exhibition in this evolution to becoming an international event, and they took some giant strides in the right direction.

Last year, MIC engaged with curators from around the world, asking for a list of suggested artists, both master and emerging, from their regions to be considered for this 60th event: Ceramics Now!: i grandi artisti della ceramic contemporanea (the great artists of contemporary ceramics). This first step ensured the museum of including artists who might not normally submit entries to a traditionally juried exhibition. It was the second step that was flawed, in my opinion. The final jury comprised five Italians. Fifty-three artists were selected but 14 of those selected were Italian, or 26 percent of the exhibiting artists.

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