Carnegie International

Above: Banu Cennetoglu's piece "Right?" Photo: New York Times photographer Sean Eaton

Every four years, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania gets dressed up for one of the oldest traditions in the art world: the Carnegie International. This International is the longest-running North American exhibition of international art, and for this year’s 58th iteration of the International, the museum has commissioned and borrowed unique work from a diverse array of artists throughout the world.

The Carnegie Museum of Art, known commonly as ‘CMOA’, was opened in 1895 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The museum’s delightful permanent collection features artworks from the Renaissance to the present day, including a copy of Monet’s Water Lilies and one of six Alberto Giacometti Walking Man figures to exist on earth. However, the museum is perhaps best known for its quadrennial Carnegie International festivals, which exist alongside the permanent collection to deliver the viewer an additional dose of artistic variety.

The International was first launched in 1896 by Carnegie himself, and the festival has run every two or four years since then, with funding from philanthropists and community organizations, in the spirit of Carnegie’s original contribution. Each International contains a different theme. The focus of the 2022-23 International is the phrase “Is it morning for you, yet?” – a play on Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “It’s morning again in America” campaign slogan.

The works in this year’s International hail from over twenty countries and fifty artists and collectives. The pieces address themes such as American intervention in Latin American coups; the Iranian Revolution and its consequences on Persian artists; and the commercialization of agricultural land in the developing world. Each gallery in the exhibition is deliberately curated to evoke thought and emotion from the visitor, and provide a reflective space for guests to contemplate how these pieces commentate the impact of twentieth-century political decisions on contemporary culture.

"My Pittsburgh Piece", a gigantic meat-grinder with acrylic 'meat' spinning on the inside

Stepping into the cavernous, acoustic Hall of Sculpture to begin one’s navigation of the International, one is greeted by two-story stacks of gold balloons stretching to the ceiling, a piece inspired by the transient impact of UN human rights conventions. Wreathing the upper balcony, a spectacular multicolored fresco by Vietnamese artist Thu Van Tran displays the sickly beauty of a forest following napalm defoliation in the Vietnam War. In the adjacent Heinz Galleries, one finds a meditative space containing Guatemalan and Ugandan art inspired by the aforementioned commercialization of agriculture, and further onward there is harsh commentary on the impact of war through a polymer sculpture of Mosul, Iraq/Aleppo, Syria, as these cities were destroyed by the recent ISIS conflict. Around the exhibition, there are also scattered reminders of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and in the ‘Refractions’ gallery, which is curated to display solidarities among peoples victimized by militarism, there are reminders of America-backed coups in developing countries from the latter half of the twentieth century.

Polymer combination of Mosul, Iraq, and Aleppo, Syria, as they appeared after the recent ISIS wars

Overall, the International leaves on the viewer a poignant impression of generational traumas mixed with a universal desire to heal open wounds left behind by international shifts in culture and violence. In the eight galleries that display pieces included in the International, one will find infinite refractions of thought that they can ponder as they browse hundreds of pieces of art that will surround them – there are pieces hanging from the ceilings; under one’s feet; and coating the walls of every room. The eclectic variety contributes further to a sense of understanding about the themes contained in the show itself, and in this the visitor will find additional appreciation of the International’s far-reaching and impactful themes.

The International opened in September 2022 and will close on April 2, 2023. The exhibition is designed for a consummate viewing experience in 3-5 hours and is located mainly on the museum’s second floor, in an easy-to-navigate loop. The Carnegie Museum of Art is located in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh and admission is $25 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $15 for students and children. The museum is open six days each week from 10 AM to 5 PM and closed Tuesdays. The building is wheelchair accessible and child-friendly, and can be reached by Forbes Avenue, a major Pittsburgh roadway. Visitors are requested to bring along an open mind.

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Manny Marotta

Manny Marotta is a recent college graduate who works at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He also works in freelance conflict journalism and runs a history project focused on educating the public on Interwar European history.