New Orleans is a city of excess: we eat more good food, show more skin (at least during Carnival season), and have more fun than just about anyplace in the United States, or anywhere. And when the Prospect.1 biennial rolled into town in the fall of 2008, we could add “see more great art” to that list as well. Hopes were high that the followup would match or even exceed the scope and ambition of curator Dan Cameron‘s first installment (81 artists! 39 countries! 22 venues!). But it’s not 2008 any more, and Prospect New Orleans has become subject to the New Austerity too.
Last week, Cameron and company announced the lineup for the considerably pared-down (and year-long delayed) Prospect.2: just 26 artists from 9 countries, spread out over barely a dozen venues in New Orleans and Lafayette, LA. The roster is more or less evenly split between an eclectic assortment of international biennial fixtures (Sophie Calle, Francesco Vezzoli); mid- and late-career American art stars (William Eggleston, Alexis Rockman); and — in what may be Cameron’s response to critics who thought Prospect.1 wasn’t quite local enough — noted Louisiana-based artists including Bruce Davenport Jr., Dawn DeDeaux and Dan Tague.
Anyone who read any of Cameron’s previous interviews on Prospect.2 (like this one, conducted by yours truly) will note the absence of Cindy Sherman, whose participation was announced to much fanfare; apparently insurance and shipping costs for her pieces alone would have strained Prospect’s already precarious financial resources past the breaking point.
Still, for those of us who remember that the sheer quantity of art in Prospect.1 didn’t always translate to uniform quality (the memory of disappointing pieces by otherwise solid artists like Arturo Herrera and Pascal Marthine Tayou still smarts after all this time), the leaner Prospect.2 lineup may not be such a bad thing. Contrary to what you’ve been told, sometimes smaller really is better.