Sunday, June 5, 2011

Opening Week at the Venice Biennale

Sigmar Polke, Polizeischwein, 1986 in the ILLUMinations Exhibition at the Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale opened to the general public on 4th June. Several people have asked me why I am not there now and there are several answers: 1) I have to go to California first (hence the title "From Venice Beach to the Venice Biennale") and this date occurs in late June due to a nonnegotiable family reunion, 2) I am not interested in the awards, parties, and general hoopla that goes with an opening - though secretly it would be fun to go once BUT the premise of my project is not based on attending this portion of the event, 3) I need time to make the work I am bringing to Italy after I visit California and unless I took the last month off school, that wasn't going to happen, 4) Many people visit the Venice Biennale after the opening - that is why it is up until November. Sure I will be missing out on seeing artists, curators, and (gasp) celebrities but in July I will have a clear view of the artwork and a good place to stay (even though I know the hotter it gets, the smellier it is in Venice).

In my extensive, watching the press and the Biennale Twitter feed (yes, I downloaded the iBiennale i-phone app too & have investigated buying my tickets online - it's only $32 for the day which seems like a steal considering it's Italy), here are some facts that I've gleaned. The Biennale is the oldest, most established and largest festival celebrating contemporary art. It is located in a park (Giardini) and comprises 30 permanent pavilions. In addition to various countries selecting artists to represent them in each pavilion, the director of the Biennale curates an exhibition in one of the large exhibition halls. Prizes are bestowed (Gold Lions) as well as Life Time Achievement awards. In 2009, Yoko Ono and John Baldessari won the Life Time Achievement awards; Ed Ruscha represented the US in 2005; 89 nations are included in 2011 including three newcomers - Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, and Haiti.

This year, Bice Curiger, co-founder of Parkett, curated the
ILLUMinations Exhibition: "The work of Venetian Renaissance painter Tintoretto will play a prominent role in ILLUMInations. Many contemporary artists claim to be searching for the same light that animates some of Tintoretto’s later works." There are 82 artists represented in this exhibition including: Christian Marclay, James Turrell, Martin Creed, Trisha Donnelley, Fischli & Weiss, Gelitin, Sigmar Polke, Pipilotti Rist, and Cindy Sherman (i.e. ones I'm interested in seeing).

The art world and art prizes leave something to be desired (check out this link where Richard Bell flipped a coin to determine the winner of Australia's Sir John Sulman Prize) but here are the winners at this year's Biennale:

The German Pavilion received the Gold Lion for National Participation. Christoph Schlingensief died of lung cancer four months before the show opened. The curator, Suzanne Gaensheimer, wanted to "demonumentalize the German Pavilion" with the inclusion of his work. The installation looks fascinating so I'm excited to see it.

Christian Marclay's The Clock (in the ILLUMinations Exhibition on display at the Corderie Arsenale) won the Gold Lion for the Best Artist in this show.

The Silver Lion for the most promising young artist at the ILLUMinations Exhibition went to Haroon Mirza.

Of course there are the unofficial exhibitions like Commercial Break which features Richard Phillips's awful (quoting c-monster) "underwear ad" or Lindsay Lohan video. I love that much of the press Lohan is getting in regards to this video is how she is under house arrest in Venice Beach and won't be able to attend the Venice Biennale. Surely there is artwork to be made about that statement.

Here's a good video clip from the BBC on how art meets politics at this year's Biennale (and it shows Mike Martin's installation as mentioned below).

Here is some great coverage in the New York Times.

What I look most forward to seeing:
• The French Pavilion as represented by one of my favorite artists ever, Christian Boltanski:

• Christian Marclay's The Clock (particularly because I ran out of time to see it while at CAA in NYC in February)

Gelitin's Installation featuring a glory hole (!) & James Turrell in the ILLUMinations Exhibition

Mike Martin's transformation of the British Pavilion to an Istanbul house
• Thomas Hirschhorn because I loved his Universal Gym
• Harmony Korine and James Franco's Rebel

Maurizio Cattelan, The Others, 2011

• I will see any Cattelan installation any chance I get especially when he acquires 2000 fake pigeons from a theater supply company and installs them all over the Biennale.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 2010

• What on earth is Cindy Sherman up to in her ILLUMinations Exhibition entry?

The US Pavilion will have it's very own posting up next.
All still images via.

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