Biennial Places: Solidarity, Authenticity, and the Expansion of the Contemporary Art Industry: Cuba, the U.S./Mexico Border, and the European Union

Paloma Checa-Gismero
Visual Arts
UC San Diego

This dissertation evaluates the role of three biennial exhibitions of contemporary art in the production of ‘authentic’ territory at times of redefinition of state sovereignty at the US/Mexico borderlands, Cuba, and the European Union in the early to mid 1990s. Taking as case studies the biennials InSITE, la Bienal de La Habana, and Manifesta, this study analyses the narratives of solidarity guiding the curatorial practices behind these exhibitions, analyzing their impact in the urban commons of their host regions. This dissertation argues that implicit solidarity contracts practiced in the three different curatorial models produced distinct notions of the ‘local authenticity’, impacting these regions’ positionality in the international contemporary art industry. An interdisciplinary project bridging art historical inquiry with theories and methods from anthropology, history, and sociology, this project poses a unique perspective on the infrastructural nature of the globalization of the contemporary art industry in the 1990s, the ideas behind international curatorial cooperation, and their role in transforming the urban commons. Combining extensive archival inquiry with ethnographic research methods, this study provides a unique lens on the practices sustaining the global contemporary art world at times of generalized questioning of the durability of the modern nation state.