Contemporary Art at FIDEM and the Whitney Biennial are a World Apart
While the medals displayed at the biennial FIDEM exhibit held in Belgium last year in September, 2016 tended to deflect attention from the anger and despair in the world that led to the rise of populism, the selections for the Whitney biennial this year embrace it.
Much of the exhibit of contemporary art in the Whitney Biennial this year reflects a world in turmoil. The work by American artists selected for exhibit spanning two floors of the new downtown NYC Whitney Museum include topics like censorship, economic disparity, racism, and immigration. The installation by Samara Golden (Los Angeles, CA, born 1973), “The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes” features miniature spaces to illustrate perspective and social conflict.
In contrast to the Whitney exhibit, most the art medals exhibited by artists from over 30 countries last September at FIDEM 34 were more whimsical and introspective. Not many art medals touched on the despair of the world. Instead, medals like “Today” by Natasha Ratcliffe (UK, born 1982) make the viewer smile and forget it.
The Fédération International de la Médaille d’Art (FIDEM) recently concluded its 34th Congress in the city of Ghent, Belgium. The professional international society is dedicated to the practice, appreciation, and promotion of the fine art of the medallion.
Art medallions date back to the ancient romans, who used the medals to commemorate their rulers. During the Renaissance, Pisanello (Antonio di Puccio Pisano) first turned medallic work into fine art. Interest in hand cast art medallions grew from the 17th to19th century, but began to wane during modern times. Today, artists throughout Europe and the United States keep the art form alive.
Launched in 1937, the International Medal Art Federation aims to promote and diffuse the art of medals at international level, to make the art known and to guarantee recognition of its place among other arts by increasing awareness of the art, history and technology of medals. FIDEM operates in over 40 countries across the globe. Each country, including the United States, is represented by a delegate and a vice-delegate who are tasked with serving as liaison with artists, scholars, FIDEM members, and other citizens interested in the art of medals. The magazine Médailles chronicles FIDEM activities and also publishes the minutes of each congress
FIDEM also holds biennial congresses, which traditionally feature exhibitions, lectures, meetings, and other events. At the most recent XXXIV Congress in Belgium, the exhibition included 460 artists, 33 countries, and more than 900 medals. A commemorative plate of was inaugurated during the congress. It was made up of 33 medals, which represented the number of countries participating and 5 colored plates referencing the number of continents. It also featured all of the different materials used today to create medals.
The XXXV FIDEM congress will be held in Ottawa, Canada from May 29 to June 2, 2018. The public will have another opportunity to see the medals displayed in Belgium, as they are scheduled to travel to Beijing, China next year. While it will not be an official FIDEM exhibit, the standard practices will apply. The medals will be displayed at the China Numismatic Museum (CNM) from August to November 2017. They will then be exhibited at the Beijing International Coin Exposition (BICE), which will be held the first weekend in November, 2017.
The Whitney Biennial 2017 will be on exhibit until June 11, 2017. The new Whitney Museum is located at 99 Gansevoort Street, NY, NY.