A groundbreaking event beginning this month aims to cast New Orleans as an international destination for contemporary art. 
Having opened Nov. 1 and continuing through mid-January, Prospect.1 New Orleans is the latest in a series of biennials, an art world tradition of major art exhibits held across a particular city every other year. In its inaugural year, the event will feature the work of more than 80 artists from 30 countries, including some of the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists, in venues ranging from formal galleries to historic buildings to open-air sites. 
Director and Curator Dan Cameron says Prospect.1 will be the nation’s first major biennial of contemporary art and that it presents visitors with an exhibition on a scale that has never been attempted before in the U.S. 
“For this first edition of the biennial it was important to me that we invite some of the most prominent artists working today from around the globe. The international scope was exceedingly important, but just as critical was the selection of a number of artists who were either born or currently work in the New Orleans area,” says Cameron.  
Funded by sponsors, Prospect.1 exhibits are free and open the public. Organizers hope the ultimate beneficiary will be New Orleans itself as visitors arrive to be part of the historic art event and explore the city on their way to widespread exhibits. 
With Prospect.1, New Orleans joins the ranks of cities including Sao Paulo, Brazil and Sydney, Australia that host biennials. Last year’s Venice Biennale in Italy drew an estimated 300,000 visitors over the course of five months.
Planning for Prospect.1 began soon after Hurricane Katrina with the idea of engaging the global art community’s desire to help the city in a meaningful way. The organizers hope the biennial this year and the events to follow in successive two-year cycles will help strengthen the city’s image as a cultural destination and create a new category of tourism. At the same time, the event also helps New Orleans reclaim part of its heritage. 
“A lot of people don’t know that starting in 1887, New Orleans was the first U.S. city to host a recurring international art exhibition,” says Cameron. “So to bring the international contemporary art world back to New Orleans in force is just as important to me as presenting the best of the local art community to the rest of the world.”
Prospect.1 New Orleans runs until Jan. 18, 2009. For more information, go to www.prospectneworleans.org. 
– Ian McNulty