Eric Banks is a writer based in New York. He is the former editor of Bookforum and is the current president of the National Book Critics Circle. From 1995 to 2003 he was senior editor of Artforum.
As an exhibition, the New Museum Triennial is still so young that it seems almost premature to call it a New York institution. Yet in just its second iteration, “The Ungovernables,” which runs through April 22, the show has already established the very thing that even veteran surveys of contemporary art would envy: a clear identity, and one that doesn’t seem redundant with either the concurrently running Whitney Biennial or the various other museum-sponsored roundups like PS 1/MoMA’s “Greater New York.” Focusing especially on work made by very young artists many of whom are based outside the US and Europe, the current show also tries to make a case for reading the work on view amid the political upheaval and messy, unfinished pursuit of democracy that has marked much of the developing world, but the artists don’t fit into this frame as snugly as the curators want to suggest.
In addition to the usual gaggle of curators and museum directors, vulpine collectors, slithery yacht-borne oligarchs, and pop celebrities a decade or more removed from their last hit record, this year’s Venice Biennale drew in a handful of politicians as well. But if Venice is still the premier international contemporary-art bonanza, it may have become a victim of its own success.