Organizers rethink int'l art show in New Orleans

AP News
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Posted: Nov 12, 2009 5:23 PM

The nation's economic downturn is prompting officials to revamp the city's foray into international contemporary art shows.

Called Prospect New Orleans, the biennial exhibit will open in November 2010 and close in February 2011 with fewer artists, more targeted display areas and an admission fee.

According to the Biennial Foundation, there are about 100 such exhibits worldwide. But Prospect founder and curator Dan Cameron said some in the art world believe there are too many for the market, though he believes a rebounding economy will help the New Orleans show.

"I know quite a few (biennials) that have gone under," he said. "Johannesburg had one. ... Lima, Peru, used to have one."

The first Prospect ran 10 weeks in 2008 and included work by 80 artists. Their art was spread around the city, including some hard-hit neighborhoods still underpopulated after Hurricane Katrina. And that diluted the impact.

"Ninety percent of our visitors didn't see the whole biennial," Cameron said.

The 2010 show will have a smaller budget _ cut from about $4.2 million to $3 million to $3.5 million _ but will be longer by three weeks. About 60 artists will be showcased in the French Quarter and other high-traffic areas.

Executive director Barbara Motley hopes tourists will be lured by the art as well as the city's charms. "They can see this fantastic art with the landscape. We want to push them into the local coffee shops. Sit down and have a cup of coffee and contemplate the art," she said.

The first Prospect drew 42,000 visitors, far below organizers' expectations of 100,000. A little more than half were out-of-towners.

The biggest reason for the turnout, Cameron said, was the financial meltdown.