Home » Steven Shearer goes to the Venice Biennale!

Steven Shearer goes to the Venice Biennale!

Just saw this:

“Steven Shearer…will represent Canada at the 54th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2011 (Venice Biennale), from June 4 to November 27, 2011. The only international visual arts exhibition to which Canada sends official representation, the Biennale is among the most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions in the world.

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Steven Shearer’s drawings of metal-heads. Image: wecantpaint.com

The artist was chosen by a national selection committee comprised of senior contemporary art curators from across Canada and formed by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), organizer of the Canadian representation for the 2011 Biennale. The NGC’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Josée Drouin-Brisebois, will organize the exhibition of Steven Shearer’s work.”


Steven Shearer’s digital collage of toolsheds. Image: mocoloco.com

Some of you may recall Shearer’s exhibition at Toronto’s Power Plant Gallery in 2007. I think it was organized by then-curator Reid Shier, (oops!  It was curated by Helena Reckitt – thanks JM) who is now at Vancouver’s Presentation House Gallery and who was on the selection committee for the Venice Biennale.


A text work by Steven Shearer. Image: wecantpaint.com

It will certainly be interesting to see what the Vancouver artist gets up to in Venice, with practically no budget…Stay tuned.

25 Responses to “Steven Shearer goes to the Venice Biennale!”

  1. Jennifer says:

    The Steven Shearer exhibition at The Power Plant was curated by Helena Reckitt.

  2. FA says:

    How embarrassing…

  3. Gabby says:

    I’m okay with the Shearer choice, but was not-so-secretly hoping it might be Geoffrey Farmer. I’m a little wary of how Shearer’s two-dimensional works will show in the architecturally fraught Canadian pavilion. Sculpture and video seem to do better there.

  4. Actually, don’t shoot me after all. I’ve given it some thought and I guess Steven is as good choice as any. It could be much worse. He’ll be popular. His work doesn’t do it for me but I get where he’s coming from with it. And he makes good objects. They look like art. I think the National Gallery involvement could be a very could change.

  5. Serge says:

    Now let’s recap. 1. The National Gallery organizes the selection committee for the Venice Biennale. 2. Josée Drouin-Brisebois is on the selection committee. 3. Josée Drouin-Brisebois proposes Steven Shearer. 4.The National Gallery selection committee selects Steven Shearer.

    WOW!

  6. AC says:

    That’s interesting, Serge – and not really in a good way. I’m interested to hear what others think about this…

  7. EM says:

    I do think there could have been worse choices. That said, I think a younger, international-profile artist would have been a better choice – Tim Lee, Terence Koh, Geoffrey Farmer, Gareth Moore. I also think Annie Pootoogook would go over well.

  8. Alderran says:

    Serge – your tone makes you sound a little bitter or even naive. The internal politics behind the selection process should be no surprise to you. There is nothing new going on there.

    Em – check Shearer’s Cv his exhibition record is extensively international.
    I wouldn’t want to see a young trendy flash in the pan artist
    representing Canada.
    Ps. Farmer is the same age as
    Shearer and he’ll get his chance in
    documenta.

    Shearer is a good choice an unexpected choice but a good one.
    How many Canadians can relate to growing up in some boring small town or sleepy suburb and feeling like an outsider looking in. Canadian culture is not just cliche stereotypes for some of us it the overlooked monotony of working class Canada.

  9. em says:

    Yes, Shearer has shown internationally but not in as significant venues as Farmer/Moore/Lee, who have shown in Jens Hoffman exhibitions. Tate etc.. Terence Koh had a solo at the Whitney.

    Shearer’s work will resonate with many, of course, who grew up in suburban/rural Canada at a certain period of time. There is much work dealing with adolescent subcultures, however; I feel his work will not stand out in Venice for that reason.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I like Shearer’s work, but one thing Canada seems to be really really terrible about when it comes to Venice, is asking the questions – why this artist? and why NOW?

    But I guess it’s easier to get money to support our country’s entry when it’s an artist who’s widely collected.

  11. em says:

    Jennifer. They do screw up Venice but…

    Rodney Graham and Cardiff were both great and timely. Also, I think Mark Lewis was a strong show – a sleeper (and I don’t mean boring although some who find conceptual art “boring” have accused it of being that way) – that deserved more attention, and might have got it had our government invested more. So widely collected does come into play perhaps.

  12. Alderran says:

    Em – Shearer showed at the Tate in 2004 it’s on his cv.
    I think we have different definitions of an international profile because for a new York based artist to show
    that the Whitney or showing in a jens hoffsmans exhibition in San francisco are not good examples of an international profile. I am well aware of the other international exhibitions that your list of artists have been in. But your original criticism of the selection Shearer was that he didn’t have enough of an international profile and that is false. His profile in on par and/or more extensive than your recommended artists.

    I argee with you that many artists deal with the isoteric subcultures of youth but those artists work usually can not compete with the large scale spectacles that are common at events like Venice. Which makes the Shearer selection unexpected as far as his work not standing up to the other works at Venice that has yet to be seen.

  13. MW says:

    This argument about choosing a national representative based on the artist’s c.v. venue hits is so limiting. It is more about being in with the art world than a curator standing by and actually defending the validity of the artist’s work. Canadians are so quick to check the c.v. for international venues rather than actually look at the work and see how it stands up on a global stage. The question should be does his work merit this kind of celebration at this point in time?

  14. em says:

    Alderran – I will check S. Shearer’s CV. My knowledge of his exhibition history is somewhat outdated to when a friend bought a piece of his work. I think an interesting point you raised is that you don’t consider a Jens Hoffman show significant. In contrast, I do, implying that international success is at least to some extent subjective. Outside of a few key places like Venice and Documenta it is a difficult barometer to measure. I was always curious how Art Net came up with those nifty artist ranking graphs.

  15. alderaan says:

    i argee comparing cv venue hits is very limiting and i am guilty of participating. But when didn’t the curator Drouin-Brisebois not stand by and defend the Shearer selection?
    It is not like she has time to patrol every little art blog.
    Ask her i bet she will tell you exactly why Shearer’s work merits this kind of celebration at this point in time.

    i think the fact that an artist is continually shown by very reputable institutions and galleries is evidence enough
    that their work is standing up on the world stage , even if they are just “in with art world.” Being in with the art world is the how you get to the world stage. Sad but true.

  16. Andrea says:

    Hi Everyone, so I asked Josée Drouin-Brisebois for her comments on this, and she replied:
    “HI Andrea,
    thank you for sending this to me. The only comment I would make is about the selection process. The selection committee reviewed a number of potential artists – there were no proposals per se (ie I did not select Shearer specifically). We were thinking about artists whom we felt would benefit from the exposure of the Venice Biennial and who had a strong body of work. We were mostly concerned with which artists we felt were primed for the exhibition at this moment in their career. The committee’s selection was unanimous.”

  17. Serge says:

    Andrea,
    My comment was about the selection process, not the choice. In the past Biennial choices were made from proposals by curators from institutions across Canada and the jury took into account both curator and artist. The current process appears so controlled by the National Gallery at each stage that it limits all kinds of possibilities. Is this really what we want? “there were no proposals per se” is a rather worrying description of how this meeting took place.

  18. Serge says:

    Given her statement here Josée might want to send in a correction to the Toronto Star which on Aug. 3 clearly states:

    “Shearer was proposed to the selection committee by National Gallery curator of contemporary art Josée Drouin-Brisebois. “

  19. Leah Sandals says:

    Hey guys… interesting discussion. I just wanted to let you know I linked to this post: http://neditpasmoncoeur.blogspot.com/2010/08/links-roundup.html

  20. Andrea says:

    Yes I saw that Leah – thank you!

  21. Danger Flower says:

    It is embarrassing. Even the fact that his c.v. is extensive makes me question why that is even so. Apparently Canadian critics applaud this bleeding-heart-teenage-sketchbook “””art””” shows how behind we are on the world stage.

  22. lonnie mowers says:

    DF. You are indeed right.

  23. JLMB says:

    As one of the curators for the 2005 Venice Biennale (Rebecca Belmore) I am delighted to see the National Gallery get involved once again in Venice. They were sole commissioners of Canada’s representation at Venice for many years. Their methodology in selecting this artist for 2011 is definitely a paradigm shift from past selection practices organized under the auspices of the Canada Council. However to bring a group of dynamic curators together to discuss who would benefit from the exposure, who had a strong body of work and who might best represent Canada, seems ideal to me. The National Gallery also oversees the maintenance of the Canada Pavilion which is in dire straits, perhaps their involvement will lead to a new dynamic space which is not a nightmare to work with.

  24. bunny who eats art says:

    The Shearer show is an EMBARRASSEMENT at the Bienniale. It makes Canada look like a backwater, backwards art country. We were not the only ones who opened the door and immediately closed it in order to go on to more exciting art. Canada needs a much fairer and more transparent selection process.

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