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From Istanbul to Reykjavik
Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten | 22.02.2002
++++ A discussion about the art biennial Manifesta 4 in Frankfurt

++++ The fourth European art biennial, Manifesta, which, since its founding in 1996, has been hosted by Rotterdam, Luxembourg and Ljubljana, begins this year in Frankfurt on 24 May. Thus, a further show of contemporary art is opening shortly before the documenta in Kassel. Manifesta 4 is tied organizationally to the Frankfurt artist's house, Mousonturm, an international performance centre for theatre, dance and music. The Austrian, Martin Fritz (38), who has been the General Co-ordinator of Manifesta 4 for a year and is a trained lawyer, has worked several times at the interface between art and administration and, for instance, organized the art project for the Expo 2000 in Hanover. In the interview he elaborates on Manifesta's aims, reports on preparations, financing, curators, and tells of his impressions of Frankfurt.

Question: What is Manifesta aiming at?
Fritz: Manifesta wants to present a Europe which has become larger and concentrates on contemporary art, independently of whether it has been produced in White Russia, Portugal, Paris, London, Skopje or Vienna. We want to provide an opportunity to get acquainted with what will possibly be seen in the next ten years in the established art industry.

Question: How is Manifesta different from other festivals?
Fritz: There are three rules. The first is that the show wanders every two years from one city to another. The second rule is that Manifesta be organized by a team of independent curators. Thirdly, there are no national quotas, focuses or national pavilions. Manifesta has taken leave from the principle of national presentations.

Question: How do you see the relationship with the documenta in Cassel which will open on 8 June?
Fritz: Very good neighbourly relations, including on the personal level. We know the documenta team well. Some of the staff are from the same generation. The parallel scheduling of the two events is an opportunity for the public to gain an overview of contemporary art on the basis of two large exhibitions. And I believe that we complement each other well. Documenta has to keep the entire world and a period of five years in view. Manifesta restricts itself to Europe from Porto to Moscow and from Istanbul to Reykjavik and can act more quickly.

Question: Manifesta begins in four months. What is the state of preparations?
Fritz: The selection of artists, the concept and the orientation with regard to content are the responsibility of the three curators. Iara Boubnova from Sofia, Nuria Enguita Mayo from Barcelona and Stéphanie Moisdon Trembley from Paris have been travelling through Europe for nine months and have met with about one thousand artists. We are about to make the final selection of between 40 and 60 participants.

Question: What venues are available?
Fritz: In the city centre we have the Kunstverein, the surroundings of the Schirn Kunsthalle and Portikus. On the other side of the River Main there is the Städel Exhibition Hall, the Städel School, the former municipal drainage offices and hopefully public spaces along the banks of the river. Visitors can start out on the circular route anywhere they like. In addition there will be project exhibitions because we want to invite artists to get involved with the city.

Question: What sort of financing does Manifesta have?
Fritz: At the moment we have 1.5 million euros of which 1.25 million euros come from the City of Frankfurt. The rest comes from the Allianz Cultural Foundation and the Messe Frankfurt. However, we need 1.85 to 2.0 million euros and we are hoping for grants from the European Union. We are thus well underway but we still need sponsors.

Question: Will there be a thematic or regional focus?
Fritz: No, the artists and the current relevance of their works will the focus of attention. After concluding the selection of artists, atmospheric focuses may become apparent. But in the first part of the year we will have lectures by critics, curators and art educators in the Städel School and thus present a conceptual background.

Question: How is the collaboration with the curators?
Fritz: The curators make their decisions on what they want to show completely autonomously. As the administrative team, we take over the organization for them and the artists. I am involved with co-ordinating the program with the participating institutions and maintain contact with the heads of these institutions in order to have someone to contact when, for instance, an artist needs a greenhouse.

Question: Is Frankfurt an art-friendly city in your opinion?
Fritz: Frankfurt's attractiveness resides in the contradiction between the claim to be a metropolis and its small geographic size, and also fields of tension such as immigration and capital are manifest here. The art institutions are very co-operative, especially since the younger generation of heads of the Kunstverein, Schirn Kunsthalle, Städel School and the Museum of Modern Art is providing new momentum. For a city of this size, Frankfurt has in incredible abundance of art organizations and thus of art lovers.

Question: Will the city also be a subject for the artists?
Fritz: I hope so.

Christian Huther conducted the interview.

von/by Christian Huther

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