All jurors expressed their concern for crafting a coherent and representative exhibition. Marcel said: “We had to build this exhibition as a work of Art by itself.” Peter explained that he: “[t]ried to achieve an image of the utmost variety.” Christine stated: “A concise international exhibition allows each piece to contribute as an instance in a broader, complex perspective.”9The prospect of an exhibition that might represent an international overview of a particular field of endeavor is very tantalizing. As an artist I am always curious to see works from an international field, I am curious about interpretations of style, process, history as well as divergent viewpoints on political and social issues that might be influenced by geography or culture. ATB 4 shows us a small international field from which it is impossible to discern any unique national perspectives. As nationalities other than the US are represented in very small numbers (Canada 4, Hungary 3, Germany 2 and single selections from Norway, Denmark, and Lithuania), it is, of course, difficult to gauge.
ATB 2, “Harmony Interpretations of Nature,”10 in 1998, was the most successful ATB exhibition to date, in pulling together a more representative international field. But much has changed since then and shipping work across borders has become complex and increasingly expensive, so many individuals may not want to bother. It is properly inevitable that the host country will dominate.
The situation in Vancouver at the Richmond Art Gallery where ATB 4 was first exhibited in July 2002 could provide an interesting format to consider in the future. Thanks to the initiative and insight of Barbara Heller, ATB 4 shared the exhibition space at the Richmond art Gallery with “Karpit: Tapestry Works from Hungary.” The two exhibitions inhabited distinct viewing spaces within the Gallery floor plan but worked together to provide a broader sense of what tapestry is. The partnership may have compromised the overall ease and visual flow of both exhibitions, as the curatorial installation was a little tight. I was personally thrilled to have the opportunity to experience works from ten major Hungarian tapestry artists. I think this kind of partnership may be a very interesting way to expand on the international goals of the American Tapestry Alliance. Partnerships with other tapestry groups or organizations in other parts of the world could be pursued: an affiliated organization could coordinate a national juried or curated exhibition, or ATA could coordinate a single gallery or dual venues to house the exhibitions. The broader scope of the joint exhibitions may also open up some additional funding sources from joint Government funding agencies.
9 Bettina Matzkukn, Introduction: American Tapestry Biennial 4, exhibition CD.
10 American Tapestry Biennial 2, Harmony: Interpretations of Nature in Contemporary Tapestry, exhibition catalogue, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta, Georgia.