The renowned eighth Biennale of Sydney was an exhibition which demonstrated the distinctive historical connections of the ‘readymade’ as it spirals conceptually through twentieth century art. ‘Art is Easy’ was splashed across the cover of the catalogue, a deceptive statement given the complexity and subtlety of René Block’s curatorial concept. The exhibition, titled ‘The Readymade Boomerang’, centred on three key figures at the start of the century; Duchamp, Man Ray and Picabia, and the distinctive historical connections their work had throughout the century.
The exhibition traced the Readymade from its invention and pure use by Duchamp, to its resurgence in the Nouveau Realism, Pop Art and Fluxus movements of the 1960’s all the way to new versions by young artists. Artists of the sixties, Warhol, Hamilton, Beuys and Cage, and conceptual artists such as On Kawara, Manzoni and Nauman were positioned surrounding the three key figures. Artists of the seventies and eighties such as Koons, Gober, Mucha and Polke formed a second circle. This configuration revealed a mainstream of aesthetic innovation based around the idea of the readymade.
The 1990 Biennale spilled into a new and immense venue, the Bond Store, where site specific works by artists like Olaf Metzel and Simone Mangos were created. The exhibition was also marked by performances and special events including pianist Carlos Santos who played as his piano was pulled on a barge under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In all one hundred and forty eight artists from twenty eight countries participated and many consider this to be a Biennale which, due to the strength of its art historical references, had a particular resonance for artists and educators.
Rene Block viewed the Biennale as a workshop where artists from different countries came together to show their works and connect the work and ideas of fellow artists. Among the participating artists were Stan Douglas, Dale Frank, Anne Zahalka, Montien Boonma, Sophie Calle and Shigeko Kubota, John Cage, Joseph Beuys, Jonathon Borofsky, Robert Gober, Richard Hamilton, Rebecca Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Juan Muňoz, Bruce Nauman, Panamarenko, Ken Unsworth, Tatsuo Miyajima and Andy Warhol.