Until Tuesday of this week, the Venice Biennale was only something I had read about in Vanity Fair and even then I only understood it to be some sort of big art event where a lot of glamorous folk attend (given the intersection with the Venice Film Festival), staged only every two years. When it was suggested we make the trip I got very excited to do something I never even considered doing! I like art! Glamour too! Let’s roll!!
The Biennale takes place in two main areas – the Giardini, which is a public park, and the Arsanale. The Giardini features the sponsored “competition” work submitted by participating countries. Their commissions are showcased in pavilions, which on any given day are open, permanent exhibition spaces, but come Biennale time they are overtaken by some of the most elaborate conceptual installations ever mounted. The above pavilion belongs to Italy, and is the biggest, and features art from around the globe curated specifically for the event. The best piece was once again from our friend Maurizio Cattelan (well represented in Venice!) whose stuffed pigeons throughout the space were a cheeky reminder that you’re not too far from St. Mark’s Square, the pigeon capital of the world.
The United States were represented by the performance/conceptual art duo Allora & Calzadilla. The entire installation was titled “Gloria” and while not as ridiculous as I anticipated based on what I had read, it did not leave me beaming with pride either.
My absolute favorite installation was France’s entry, an operational printing press type of mechanism featuring a film strip of newborn babies. The artist is Christian Boltanski and the piece is called “Chance” and the movement is is absolutely stunning – I hope to post a video later, but in the meantime, check out the visual.
Overall I was disappointed by the general quality of the work featured, both by in and out of competition artists. However, the few gems, including the French piece and those ubiquitous pigeons, made the experience worthwhile and definitely worth 3 hours in the car and rubbing shoulders with cruise ship day trippers to make our way to the Giardini!