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January 25th, 2008
The U.S. Department of State Names Bruce Nauman to Represent the United States in the 2009 Venice Biennale

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is pleased to announce the selection of Bruce Nauman (b. 1941) as the artist to represent the United States at the 2009 Venice Biennale. The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs selected Nauman following the unanimous recommendation of the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions (FACIE) that reviewed proposals received through an open competition. Carlos Basualdo, Curator of Contemporary Art, and Michael Taylor, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, will serve as the U.S. Commissioners and will organize the exhibition from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Nauman is regarded as one of the most innovative artists of his generation, often cited as a catalyst for the recent shift in much international artistic practice toward conceptual and performative uses of language and the body. In work encompassing video, installation, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and neon, Nauman continually engages mundane situations and inter-personal communication only to subvert them through paradoxical visual and linguistic manipulation. The exhibition will explore recurrent themes that figure in Bruce Nauman’s oeuvre across the many mediums he employs and will represent the United States in the American Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale.

“Bruce Nauman has become a touchstone for contemporary art, and we are thrilled that the Philadelphia Museum of Art will work closely with him on the presentation in Venice,” said Anne d’Harnoncourt, the Museum’s George D. Widener Director and CEO. The Museum has recently acquired one of the most celebrated early neon works by the artist, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths of 1967, currently on display in its Modern and Contemporary galleries.

“Bruce Nauman has fundamentally altered our conception of artistic practice and identity. We are excited to have this opportunity, as the Biennale provides the perfect venue in which to explore and contextualize his radical ideas,” says Taylor. Basualdo remarks: “Our intention is to map the vast and varied terrain of Nauman’s oeuvre to reveal the relationships and interconnections that surface among individual works. To do this, we will take the Venetian context and everything that the ‘national pavilions’ imply as possible points of departure.”


About Bruce Nauman

Bruce Nauman (b. 1941, Fort Wayne, Indiana) studied mathematics, physics and studio art at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and then pursued an MFA at the University of California, Davis. There, artists on staff such as Wayne Thiebaud and William T. Wiley supported his experimental attitude toward art making. In 1966 Nauman had his first solo show at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery in Los Angeles and was also included in Lucy R. Lippard’s Eccentric Abstraction group exhibition at the Fischbach Gallery in New York. Nauman’s solo debut in New York at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1968 was soon followed by a one-man exhibition at Konrad Fischer’s gallery in Düsseldorf. In 1973, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art co-organized the first museum survey, Bruce Nauman: Works from 1965-1972, an exhibition that also traveled in Europe.

Nauman’s work can be found in prominent museum collections throughout the world, and he has been the subject of many notable solo exhibitions, including: Bruce Nauman, 1972-1981 held in the Netherlands and in West Germany in 1981; Bruce Nauman, a survey organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis that traveled in 1993-95 to Madrid, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York; and, in 2006-07, A Rose Has No Teeth an exhibition of his early work organized by the University of California Berkeley Art Museum that toured to Turin, Italy, and Houston, Texas. Nauman has garnered multiple awards throughout his career including the Wexner Prize in 1994, the Leone d’oro (The Golden Lion) along with Louise Bourgeois at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, and the Praemium Imperiale for Visual Arts in 2004 in Japan. He holds honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute and the California Institute of the Arts. Since 1975, Nauman has been represented in New York by SperoneWestwater. In 1979, he moved to New Mexico where he lives along with his wife, the noted American painter Susan Rothenberg.

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