edited by Paul O’Neill, Simon Sheikh, Lucy Steeds, and Mick Wilson. The MIT Press, October 2019. 544 p. ill. ISBN 9780262537902 (h/c), $39.95.

Reviewed January 2021
Margot McIlwain Nishimura, Dean of Libraries, Fleet Library, Rhode Island School of Design, mnishimu@risd.edu

oneill sheikhCurating After the Global: Roadmaps for the Future compiles the edited and expanded proceedings of a conference of the same name that took place in September 2017 in Arles, France. The volume is the third in a series, from symposia co-sponsored by the Luma Foundation and the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard), that examine various political, cultural, and economic forces shaping the institutions and curatorial practices of the international contemporary art world. The volume is edited by four of the organizers of the conference, Paul O’Neill (CCS Bard), Simon Sheikh (Goldsmiths, University of London), Lucy Steeds (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London), and Mick Wilson (Valand Academy of Arts, University of Gothenberg), and the contributors – artists, curators, theorists, art historians, editors, journalists, activists and a DJ -- include several prominent names (with extensive bios supplied in an appendix) from institutions and programs that span much of the globe.

This is a dense, heavy, paperback volume, with very few illustrations. A general introduction and introductions to each of the three sections provides a helpful scaffolding to the contents, and create on their own something of a primer into current and historical concerns that confront the creators, curators, audiences, and critics who participate in the more politicized and activist areas of today’s international contemporary art world.

Simon Sheikh’s general introduction, “Morbid Symptoms: Curating in Times of Uncertainty and De-Globalization,” lays out the context for “curating after the global,” considering, first, the paradoxical state of contemporary art as both benefiting from and driving globalization, and, second, how curating on the world stage increasingly has to reckon with adverse reactions to globalization -- politics of rejection, xenophobia, anti-internationalism, and the worldwide crises of disparity, migration, and climate change.

The authors of section I, “After the Global: Diagnoses of the Current Conjuncture,” introduced by Mick Wilson, tackle the concept of “after the global” via examples of current political activism, critical discourse, artistic practice, and exhibitions that “seek to reject racist and colonial schemas.” In the second section, “After the Global: Exhibition Histories,” introduced by Lucy Steeds, the authors offer past examples of activist “exhibitions, curatorial initiatives, cultural congresses and festivals.” And, in the third and final section, “After the Global: Institutional Repositioning,” introduced by Paul O’Neill, the focus is redirected to the relationship of the local to the global.

With its essays tending to the more theoretical and philosophical, this volume will appeal to advanced undergraduates, graduate students and faculty in art history, fine arts, performance studies, and curatorial studies, especially those looking for a deeper dive into the relationship of the visual arts to anti-racism, decolonization, and environmental activism from a global, geopolitical perspective.


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