With 89 participating nations, 37 collateral venues, the Venice 54th Biennale International Art Exhibition is diverse, expansive…
and still around til November 27.
The frenzied, fervent opening of ILLUMInations, the 54th Biennale seems far away now. During that week in late June, more than 51,000 visitors were estimated to have strolled among, perused, scrutinized, and analyzed the artistic offerings in the Giardini, Arsenale and the numerous collateral exhibitions strewn across the city. It’s unthinkable that anyone who doesn’t have months here could ever view all the works on display in the main and para-pavillions and city-wide venues, not to mention all the concurrent exhibits not officially associated with the Biennale itself. What’s a time-limited traveller to do?
TO THE GARDENS
You could choose to start in the still slightly leafy Giardini and immerse yourself in MIKE NELSON’s mesmerizing, alternate time-and-space sculptural installation, whose creation involved a complete restructuring of the Great Britain pavilion (the advice you receive as you enter is “Watch your head, and your step”). Afterward, head down the hill to compare it with the intriguing Francia (France) installation by , and with Czech Republic, where you’ll meander through DOMINIK LANG’s captivating intro-retrospective featuring his own contemporary installation of his father’s “sleeping witnesses” from the 1950s.
Don’t miss the Central Pavilion that, unlike dedicated national pavilions, hosts works by a wide assortment of artists. As startling today as it likely was in its own time, TINTORETTO’s “The Last Supper” traveled across the lagoon from its home for the last 420 years at San Giorgio Maggiore to form the centerpiece there along with two other monumental works; MAURIZIO CATTELAN’s Others, stuffed pigeons pervasively perched outside the pavilion and in, perhaps recalling their prevalence in Piazza San Marco, keep watch overhead. They contrast markedly with the “invisible painting” of Swiss/New York artist BRUNO JACOB, created with, among other things, water and steam.
Cross the canal bridge to reach the Austrian pavilion. It’s not necessary to understand the precise intention of MARKUS SCHINWALD’s intriguing yet subtly disturbing juxtapositions of time, subject matter, and artistic medium to be drawn in by them; the labyrinth of corridors that presents each work contributes significantly to their effect.
The Greek pavilion offers DOHANDI’s profound, minimalist respite at the opposite end of the park, Poland’s YAEL BARTANA has expertly crafted the tongue-in-cheek …and Europe will be Stunned, a three-video presentation; 30 days of Running in the Space is EGYPT’s tribute to beloved artist and activist AHMED BASIONY, who was downed by snipers in Tahrir Square on the Friday of Wrath.
If you instead choose to tour the Arsenale which features a number of emerging countries this year, you may choose to turn the corner at the end of the Corderie and take in a bit of “The Clock,” Swiss-American CHRISTIAN MARCLAY’s 24-hour film in which every clip refers to the actual time of day. It’s a masterfully edited piece relating past to present that will engross you for as long as you choose to stay and watch.
IT’S EVERYWHERE YOU ARE
The Biennale extends far beyond the confines of the garden pavilions and Arsenale, installed in some of the most evocative and rarely accessible venues in the city. Take vaporetto Line 62 from the Giardini Biennale stop to Spirito Santo on the Zattere; you’ll be deposited directly in front of the Emporio die Sali, the old salt warehouses (themselves worthy of a visit even without the art). There you’ll find “The Future of a Promise,” a pan-Arab collateral exhibition featuring 22 artists and presenting an extraordinary range of refined works that soar through the expansive warehouse space. Across town at the Scuola della Misericordia is Jan FABRE’s striking Pietas, an installation consisting of marble sculpture reflected in golden flooring — an impressive building in its own right that could not have been put to much more impressive use.
BEYOND the BIENNALE
Finally, TRA: The Edge of Becoming is not a part of the 54th Biennale — but could easily be (they even have the same closing dates). The impeccable renovation of the Palazzo Fortuny makes it an extraordinary exhibition structure, and one of the few that could display TRA’s over 300 works in any coherent way. Artists represented include notables Rodin, Duchamp, Fontana, Kapoor, and Lèger to name a few, with many contemporary artists’ works commissioned specifically for the exhibition.
There are few visitors who wouldn’t enjoy adding this edition of the Biennale to their itinerary anytime before November 27th. For the frequent visitor, it adds a present day dimension to an already beloved destination.
thru Nov 27th, 2011
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed Mondays (except August 15th, October 31st and November 21st, 2011)
€20 (full), discounts for students and seniors.
Entrance fees for collateral exhibitions vary (many are free)
Giardini Biennale (Lines 41/42, Lines 51/52, Lines 61/62)
Giardini (Line 1)
Entrance, Calle della Tana
Arsenale (Line 1, 41/42)
There is a Biennale Navetta transfer from the Giardini to the Arsenale; and also a shortcut between the back of the Giardini and and top of the Arsenale.