04/04/2011 01:12 pm ET | Updated Jun 04, 2011

AICA Awards 2011: Establishing a Narrative

"To Breathe: Invisible Mirror" a stunning light and sound video by Kimsooja set the stage for the evening.

Before attending the 26th Annual AICA Awards at the Guggenheim Museum last year, I traveled the circular path through the engrossing Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention at the Jewish Museum; and discovered curator Mason Klein engaged in a passionate defense of his (r)evolutionary approach to the monograph: narrative.

Mason Klein, curator at the Jewish Museum, accepts the Second Place award for BEST MONOGRAPHIC MUSEUM SHOW IN NEW YORK for "Alias Man Ray"

Meeting Klein at the reception following the 2011 International Association of Art Critics (AICA) Awards Ceremony at the brand new academic building for the Cooper Union Advancement of Science and Art, we continued the discussion. If the AICA critics, myself included, failed to recognize other exhibitions that illuminated human consciousness as the catalyst to the creation of art, it is because such narrative is not an accepted approach to curation...

...At a time that criticism -- which completes the cycle of consciousness between artist and audience -- itself is in crisis...

The award winning Iranian artist Sharin Neshat set the tone for the evening by defining risk-taking in art as a choice between internal persecution and external exile.

The annual AICA Awards have progressively gotten more polished, and more articulate of the role the critical apparatus plays in recognizing curatorial excellence in the decade since I have been a member of the organization.

This year, through the choice of presenters and special Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field of Criticism, Elizabeth C. Baker, longtime editor of Art in America (1972-2008) who lauded the work of the critic in her address...



Linda Nochlin the multi award winning scholar and critic granting a special AICA award to Baker after sharing a memory of sharing a bathtub in Paris.

...the awards encapsulated a duality at work in the art world as it grapples with a drastically altered environment.

On one hand, a renewal of the feminine spirit entering the institution via performance art...

Tania Bruguera hugs Neuberger Museum curator Helaine Posner after winning Second Place for BEST SHOW IN A UNIVERSITY GALLERY

On the other, a heavy dose of historical minimalist/abstract content, blasted by Cai Guo-Qiang's gunpowder explosions...

"Cai Guo-Qiang: Fallen Blossoms," a collaboration between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Fabric Workshop and Museum, receives First Place for BEST SHOW IN A PUBLIC SPACE

A (r)evolutionary break into narrative was Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present at the Museum of Modern Art, in which the museum took new strides in nudity and interactivity with the public and the Internet.

"Oh, god. That was really hard," Marina Abramovic declared as she appeared at the podium to accept First Place award for BEST MONOGRAPHIC MUSEUM SHOW IN NEW YORK for her MoMA retrospective curated by Erica Papernik. After expressing her gratitude at no longer being labeled "alternative", she broke through another new boundary: thanking the guards!

But it also took place unexpectedly at the former site of the 1965 World's Fair...

Queens Museum Curator Hitomi Iwasaki of Duke Riley's The Naval Battle receives the Second Place award for BEST PROJECT IN A PUBLIC SPACE

Tracing connections between (R)evolutions past and present...

Kalliopi Minioudaki & Sid Sachs of "Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958-1958," First Place winner for BEST THEMATIC MUSEUM SHOW NATIONALLY.

There was a tangible link creating an impromptu narrative of body consciousness...


In accepting First Place for "Matisse: Radical Invention," MoMA curator John Elderfield revealed the source of a mysterious alternation on the floor below Matisse's "Bathers," traced back to the oil from the bare feet of the Abramovic performers.

If MoMA could turn its ship around to accommodate a new zeitgeist, and the Guggenheim could empty its space...

Accepting for Tino Sehgal at the Guggenheim, First Place for BEST SHOW INVOLVING DIGITAL MEDIA, VIDEO, FILM OR PERFORMANCE

The Shadow could be directly confronted outside institutional bounds...

Deborah Landau of The Madison Square Park Conservancy accepted the Second Place award for BEST PROJECT IN A PUBLIC SPACE for Antony Gormley's "Event Horizon"

And at the AICA Awards ceremony, courtesy of a brilliantly targeted William Kentridge video!

William Kentridge interviewing himself.

Lisa Paul Streitfeld is an art critic, performance artist and curator who has been an AICA member for a decade.