Places with a Past:
Site-Specific Work
in Charleston

Spoleto Festival | Charleston | 1991
Mary Jane Jacob, Curator

Featured artists: Ann Hamilton, Lorna Simpson, David Hammons, Cindy Sherman, Chris Burden, Barbara Steinman, Joyce Scott, Elizabeth Newman, and others.

In this FSA Inspiration, we would like to highlight the seminal exhibition “Places with a Past” that Mary Jane Jacobs curated for the Charleston Spoleto Festival in 1991. As reviewed by the New York Times (1991): “The Spoleto Festival decided to treat the visual arts with the same seriousness with which it has treated opera, theater and dance, and it has done so in style. […] The artists chose their own sites. There is no evident dealer or collector involvement and no smell of power or money. The art is impermanent. […] All 17 installations are rooted in Charleston and its history. The 19 artists — black and white, male and female, from Canada, Europe and Australia as well as from the United States — explore Charleston and slavery, Charleston and the military, Charleston and religion, Charleston and its devotion to a glorified view of its past. A number of installations were conceived for old or dilapidated buildings, some for private homes. Some artists found the stories they needed to tell in a pump house, or in the Customs House, or in a church. Very little of the work is didactic. Almost all the artists came to Charleston to learn from the city, not to tell its citizens what to think.