Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp

New Orleans, United States
18 Nov 2017 - 28 Feb 2018

Dawit Petros, Act of Recovery (Part I), Nouakchott, Mauritania from The Stranger’s Notebook, 2016.


Dawit Petros, Act of Recovery (Part I), Nouakchott, Mauritania from The Stranger’s Notebook, 2016. COURTESY THE ARTIST AND TIWANI CONTEMPORARY, LONDON

This year’s Prospect New Orleans Triennial is titled Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp and curated by Trevor Schoonmaker, the triennial—scheduled to open November 18 and run through February 2018—will include 73 artists who deal with the legacy of colonialism and feelings of displacement.

Prospect.4, the fourth iteration of a citywide exhibition finds inspiration in the lotus plant. This aquatic perennial takes root in the fetid but nutrient-rich mud of swamps so that its beautiful flower may rise above the murky water. The flower’s grace is inextricably connected to the noisome swamp, just as redemption exists in ruin, and creativity in destruction. Viewed as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhism and Hinduism, the lotus suggests the possibility of overcoming arduous challenges. It reminds us that, from the depths of difficulty and desolation, art brings the invisible to light.

The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp evokes New Orleans’s natural environment—surrounded by bayous, lakes, and wetlands near the mouth of the Mississippi River. It also alludes to the city’s unique cultural landscape as a creative force.  The politically engaged jazz saxophonist Archie Shepp described jazz itself as a triumph of the human spirit, a lily that grows, “in spite of the swamp.” New Orleans of course gave birth to jazz, arguably the preeminent art form of the twentieth century, pioneered under adverse circumstances. That music germinated within of the darkness of slavery, grew through the African drumming of Congo Square, and absorbed European classical and brass band music. Jazz was nourished in the sultry brothels and saloons of Storyville where Buddy Bolden played his cornet and mixed with the syncopated Cuban rhythms that Jelly Roll Morton called the “Spanish tinge.”

A release with the artist list also featured preliminary details about some of the triennial’s projects. Odili Donald Odita, a painter known for brightly colored abstractions, will create a new work for the Algiers Ferry, while John Akomfrah will debut a feature-length film about Buddy Bolden, one of the first jazz musicians.

Venues for the triennial will include the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and Crescent Park.

“Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp” coincides with New Orleans’s tricentennial anniversary. The artist list follows in full below.

Larry Achiampong
Derrick Adams
Abbas Akhavan
John Akomfrah
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Michael Armitage
Louis Armstrong
Kader Attia
Radcliffe Bailey
Rina Banerjee
Rebecca Belmore
Maria Berrio
Sonia Boyce
Katherine Bradford
Margarita Cabrera
María Magdalena Campos-Pons
Andrea Chung
Edgar Cleijne & Ellen Gallagher
Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker
Minerva Cuevas
Wilson Díaz
Mark Dion
Alexis Esquivel
Genevieve Gaignard
Gauri Gill & Rajesh Vangad
Tony Gleaton
Jon-Sesrie Goff
Wayne Gonzales
Barkley L. Hendricks
Satch Hoyt
Evan Ifekoya
Alfredo Jaar
Rashid Johnson
Kahlil Joseph
Patricia Kaersenhout
Brad Kahlhamer
Kiluanji Kia Henda
Taiyo Kimura
The Kitchen Sisters: Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva with Otabenga Jones & Associates
Runo Lagomarsino
Pedro Lasch
Maider López
Jillian Mayer
Darryl Montana
Dave Muller
Lavar Munroe
Paulo Nazareth
Rivane Neuenschwander
Jennifer Odem
Odili Donald Odita
Yoko Ono
Horace Ové
Zak Ové
Dawit L. Petros
Quintron and Miss Pussycat
Dario Robleto
Tita Salina
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz
Zina Saro-Wiwa
John T. Scott
Zineb Sedira
Xaviera Simmons
Penny Siopis
Cauleen Smith
Hank Willis Thomas
Hong-An Truong
Naama Tsabar
Michel Varisco
Monique Verdin
Kara Walker
James Webb
Jeff Whetstone
Peter Williams