Curated by the Nasher Museum of Art’s chief curator Trevor Schoonmaker, Prospect.4 was comprised of 73 artists or collectives from 25 countries and took its inspiration from the grace and resilience of the lotus plant. The title also alludes to the city’s unique cultural landscape; the politically engaged saxophonist Archie Shepp described jazz as a triumph of the human spirit, a lily that grows “in spite of the swamp.”
Cultural synthesis and syncretism inform many of the central issues explored in Prospect.4. Cross-cultural fertilization defines New Orleans’ foodways, customs, celebrations, architecture, and language as much as any other American city. Many artists in P.4 explored related themes, connecting them to contemporary geographies and cultures around the world.
Prospect.4 overlapped with the city of New Orleans’s tricentennial celebration——the 300th anniversary of the founding of Nouvelle-Orléans by the French in 1718.
Because of this serendipitous intersection, P.4 took the city’s distinctive character as a point of departure to investigate global concerns. The exhibition particularly looked southward, emphasizing New Orleans’ relationship to and relevance within the Global South. The Prospect.4 audience reached over 100,000 for the first time in the organization’s history.