History of the Carnegie International
In 1895, Andrew Carnegie, the Scotland-born philanthropist and titan of the steel industry, founded the Carnegie Institute, laying the foundation for the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh that exist today, including Carnegie Museum of Art. To make Pittsburgh “as famous for art as it is now for steel,” Carnegie established an annual survey exhibition of art from which the museum would purchase prizewinners and key works to build its collection.
The exhibition series, which was originally founded in 1896, came to be known as the Carnegie International, the longest-running North American exhibition of international contemporary art. The International was initially staged as an annual exhibition and held every fall until the second half of the 20th century. The early exhibitions featured paintings predominantly by leading American and Western European artists.
In 1952, the event took the title of Pittsburgh International Exhibition, with “contemporary” added in 1955 and “sculpture” in 1958. The title Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings and Sculpture remained until the 1970s when it was renamed the “International Series,” showing a spotlight on a single artist in 1977 and multiple artists in 1979.
In 1982, the International reappeared under its triennial survey format as the Carnegie International and has been mounted every three to five years since to present an overview of how art and artists respond to the critical questions of our time through new commissions, existing works, and projects by established and emerging artists working locally, domestically, and internationally.
Since the first Carnegie International, the museum has acquired hundreds of works of art that have appeared in the exhibition series, including works by Josef Albers, Dara Birnbaum, Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Nicole Eisenman, Isa Genzken, Dan Graham, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Mike Kelley, Ellsworth Kelly, Louise Lawler, Agnes Martin, Julie Mehretu, Joan Miró, Bruce Nauman, Chris Ofili, On Kawara, Sigmar Polke, Auguste Rodin, Doris Salcedo, John Singer Sargent, Hiroshi Sugimoto, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.
Current prizes awarded to Carnegie International artists include the Carnegie Prize for outstanding achievement in the exhibition in the context of a lifetime of work and the Fine Prize for an emerging artist in the exhibition.
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