Venice is over and the memories are rolling in:
Stefano Tonchi, Editor of T Magazine:
Looking back, the week blurs into one long (long, long) day, stretching from the feverish early morning walks though the many pavilions, giardini, palazzos and former factories into wild nocturnal boat-rides to cocktails, dinners, screenings and parties. Venice really has a lot to offer — more incredible locations in a small space than you could ever imagine. But as the artist Barbara Kruger might say, “Venice is a very small town unless you have to walk it.”
Renting a speed boat — or bringing your own mega yacht as the Russian oligarchs do — is really the way to go but it comes with a price. This year the going rate for a motoscaffo was 130 euros per hour. Not a deal in dollars or in rubles. And what with the current slow-down in the art market and the world economy alike, there were fewer people in attendance at this year’s opening and fewer displays of glamour and wealth.
To say that everybody I spoke to offered up a different and contradictory opinion on the Biennale is to state the obvious, but most people would most likely agree that this one will go down as the Slow Biennale. But that is a good thing, like a wonderful International meal cooked and eaten in one of those pretentious but simple, snooty but friendly, obvious but obscure Slow Food restaurants that are the only pride of Italy these days. (Let’s not even talk about Berlusconi or the artists in the Italian national pavilion!)
Venice Slowly but Surely (T: The New York Times)
Martin Gayford, art critic, Times of London
There was a moment when I suddenly began to feel terrible. It was about a third of a mile into the old sail warehouses of the Venetian Arsenale. One moment I was making notes and forming judgments, the next I was struck by a searing headache, plus ominous sensations in my chest and abdomen. I recalled that Dante had found in this very spot some of the most vivid imagery in his Inferno — the bubbling pitch to be precise. For the critic, and the assiduously thorough visitor, there is a risk of severe art prostration (fortunately treatable with sparkling wine). If possible, sample the exhibitions slowly, pause from time to time and — as Tobias Meyer of Sotheby’s Contemporary sagely advises — leave time for a nice lunch.
At times the Biennale experience can seem downright purgatorial. In the hot summer of 2003 the temperature climbed to 40C (100F) and it seemed possible that the milling assembly of dealers, curators, artists, critics, publicists, collectors and hangers-on might melt into the canals like gelati. But despite the danger of becoming arted-out, still we keep coming back. As Bill Viola, the American film and video artist, once put it to me: “It’s the nearest thing that the art world has to a trade conference. Plumbers and real estate agents have those, so why shouldn’t we?” You just can’t miss it.
Venice Biennale is a Glimpse of the Future (Times of London)
David Lister chronicles parties past and present in the Independent:
The sculptor Sir Anthony Caro, who was Britain’s representative in 1966, recalls: “There was a holiday spirit. We’d all go out in the evenings and get pretty drunk. One day, the British Council took us to Torcello, an extraordinary little island, which has a very ancient church on it. I remember the Council’s boat sank, which was rather fun.” They don’t do fun like that anymore. Nor always is there a party like that put on by Bloomberg when the magnate decided to host a shindig for Mark Wallinger’s exhibition. He simply bought up an uninhabited island near Venice, ferried guests out in a boat laden with champagne, and how their jaws dropped as they disembarked on the island with fairy lights illuminating the way across it. The Americans always do it in style, holding a party this year the Peggy Guggenheim museum. Step on to the rooftop terrace and you see the view that Canaletto saw.[…]
The hot ticket, as far as parties go, is for the Ukrainian pavilion. The curator is, unusually among art history boffins, a former heavyweight boxing champion. There was, it is said, an extremely heated artistic disagreement between him and a high profile London art dealer at the Ukrainian party at the last biennale, at which the entertainment (or the other entertainment) came from Elton John. Whether the Ukrainian tycoon Viktor Pinchuk , who is funding this year’s shindig, can match that, we shall see, though there were reports that Elton was again going to turn up and with George Michael in tow. Certainly the venue, the lavish Palazzo Pappadoppoli on the Grand Canal is promising.
The Boston Globe‘s Sebastian Smee identifies the best show of the lot:
But perhaps the real story this year is that the official Biennale is being conspicuously upstaged by the so-called “collateral events” – independent exhibitions mounted elsewhere in the city. The best of these is at the Palazzo Fortuny, the majestically disheveled former residence and workshop of the great textile designer, painter, inventor, photographer, and dressmaker Mariano Fortuny. Pretentiously called “In-finitum,” it is the third in a trilogy of shows that started in Venice during the 2007 Biennnale.
But with “In-finitum,” Vervoordt, guided largely by intuition, has attempted something no academically trained curator would dream of. In pulling it off, he has created an astonishing exhibition, made all the more so by its unforgettable setting.
Conceived by collector and dealer Axel Vervoordt, the exhibition displays work by some of the biggest names in contemporary and 20th-century art alongside old masters, ancient sculptures, Asian art, textiles, and various installations.
When collectors take over the work of curators and try to stage intelligent and intelligible shows, their efforts can easily backfire. Pinault’s two displays of his splashy collection, at the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, are a case in point: They smack of an arriviste’s susceptibility to bloated works by fashionable names.
What Recession? In Venice, the Party Rolls On (Boston Globe)