Contemporary Art and Classroom Learning
History of the Carnegie International
Carnegie International Acquisitions
Why Contemporary Art?
Contemporary art—the art of the late twentieth century—is intellectually challenging and often visually
bewildering in its nontraditional techniques and media. In this regard, however, it is hardly unique:
contemporary art has historically confounded its audiences. As in the past, today’s art frequently requires
decoding to reveal its full meaning. A variety of approaches can be employed to search for this meaning and
each, by its nature, is a valuable educational tool.
In comparison to much of the art of earlier times, today’s art rarely recounts a narrative or offers a
representational view of the world. Responding to contemporary art, especially in today’s world of sound bites
and instant video images, requires concentrated critical and creative thinking. Drawn from over fifteen
countries, CI:99/00 presents the visual “voices” of 41 artists, all of whom deal with current, real-world issues.
This “living art” can connect students to ways of knowing and understanding the world in which they live—beyond Pittsburgh and the United States—and reward them with insights into their own experience. Without
guidance, however, students are unlikely to make the connections between the art they see in this exhibition
and their own lives.
Recent written and oral surveys of middle and high school students in Pittsburgh reveal that the majority of
teenagers cannot define contemporary art and those who can characterize it generally disregarded it for fear of
being “wrong” about its meaning. Fortunately, there are many processes by which contemporary art can be
investigated and interpreted, and these provide significant learning opportunities to art experts and novices
The teachers and museum educators who developed this resource notebook recognize the teaching potential
of contemporary art and the exceptional opportunity that the 1999 Carnegie International offers students to
explore the social, political, and cultural issues of our time in a global context. Through this exhibition, students
will discover how contemporary art presents ideas, values, and beliefs, and also provides them with a context
in which to forge their own views.
History of the
When Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie founded Carnegie Institute in 1895, one of his ambitions was to
create a museum of modern art. The international exhibition series he established in 1896 as a showplace for
contemporary American and European paintings has played a major role in the achievement of this goal. In
addition to enriching the permanent collection, Carnegie’s annual exhibitions were designed to educate
Pittsburgh audiences and inspire American artists, and also spread good will, understanding, and peace
through the language of art. Now called the Carnegie
International, the exhibition series is the longest
running survey of contemporary art in North America and the second oldest such exhibition in the world.
While the aims of the International have remained constant over the years, the exhibition has had many
incarnations. It has evolved, through various forms, from an annual display focused on European and
American paintings to a triennial installation of works in various media by artists from around the world. In this
process, as Carnegie directed, the museum has established a collection of artworks that have become “old
masters with time.” More than 300 works have been selected for the Carnegie Museum of Art’s permanent
collection from past Internationals, including works by Winslow Homer, James McNeill Whistler, Mary
Cassatt, Childe Hassam, Camille Pissaro, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Georges Rouault, Willem de
Kooning, Jackson Pollack, Anselm Kiefer, and Richard Serra. At the time of their acquisition, many of these works were
considered outrageous and were not well received. Today they are among the most beloved works in the
museum’s permanent collection. Carnegie’s farsighted strategy continues to guide the Carnegie Museum of Art
in maintaining a highly respected collection of international art.
Now one of more than thirteen international exhibitions of contemporary art held in the world, the
International continues to maintain a position of distinction. What differentiates the International is, ironically, its
traditional structure: it is curated by a single vision with the active advice of an international committee of art
experts, and is modest in size relative to some of its newer counterparts. Consequently, the exhibition has a
strong artistic focus and thematic cogency. The Carnegie International is not restricted by an obligatory roster
of artists nor by government regulations. Further, it is the only such international exhibition that is still held in a
museum; its many manifestations have served as models for other shows of its kind.
Andrew Carnegie’s vision and wealth launched the Carnegie International with enough momentum to carry it
far beyond his own life span. Carnegie Museum of Art presents the International as an aesthetic and
intellectually acute statement on the art of our time, a statement that does not merely reflect on, but also
influences the present cultural moment. As the home of the only international survey of contemporary art in
North America, the exhibition has brought widespread recognition to the city of Pittsburgh—recognition that
has amplified Pittsburgh’s sophisticated and lively arts environment.
In November 1999 the art world will converge on Pittsburgh for the opening of the 53rd installment of the
Carnegie International exhibition. The 1999 exhibition features approximately 100 artworks by 41 emerging
and established artists from over 15 countries. Some of the artworks were commissioned specifically for the
exhibition, and all of them have been produced since the last International held in 1995. CI:99/00 includes
paintings, sculptures, installations, and film and video, the latter comprising approximately 25 percent of the
Madeleine Grynsztejn, curator of contemporary art at the Carnegie Museum of Art, has spent the past two
years researching and organizing CI:99/00, counseled by an advisory committee of three highly respected
members of the international art community. The interpretive framework of the International grew out of
Grynsztejn’s visits to more than 200 artists in 27 countries. She envisions her role as being a translator—for art
and for the moment.
According to Grynsztejn, the theme for CI:99/00 is centered on a “philosophical interrogation of our relation to
reality.” The exhibition also addresses “new internationalism,” a mode of thinking about the world in both local
and global terms. Selections made for the exhibition reflect a decentralization of the art world, with work from
thriving communities based in such formerly outlying geographies as Eastern Europe, Latin America, and
CI:99/00 is on view from November 6, 1999, through March 26, 2000. The exhibition occupies over 42,000
square feet in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and the Carnegie Library of
Pittsburgh in Oakland. The exhibition reveals the keen vision and generous observations of the global arts
community. For artist and audience alike, the Carnegie International remains a forum for thinking in visual form
about the present, a forum where the present is not only raised, but also shaped.