As denizens of the floating art world migrate to Venice (or re-migrate for those who had to be at the Hirst show) for the opening of the biennale, the New York Times is impressed with the Christine Macel’s curatorial turn away from overtly political topics back toward questions of art and the role of the individual artist:
“Viva Arte Viva” begins with a methodological question: What does it mean to be an artist today? It showcases 120 artists, 103 of whom are participating in the Biennale for the first time. Ms. Macel chose to give the Biennale’s Golden Lion for lifetime achievement to the pioneering feminist performance artist Carolee Schneemann, whose work — including her bacchanalian 1964 video, “Meat Joy” — pushes the boundary between dance and visual art. “I wanted to honor someone who’s changed the definition of artist,” Ms. Macel said.
A Venice Biennale About Art, With the Politics Muted (The New York Times)
The Economist reminds us that the growth of the Venice Biennale tracks the expansion of the global art market:
EVER since the Venice Biennale was launched in 1895, individual countries have offered their artists a showcase in national pavilions. Some are financed through their culture ministries, such as Italy’s, others, like Britain’s, through the ministry of foreign affairs. The Ukraine pavilion is paid for by a private collector, Poland’s via multiple sources. For 55 years there were fewer than 20 entrants, but in 1950 the number began to grow. This year, despite last-minute cancellations from Bahrain and Lebanon, there are 89 national pavilions, the highest number ever and up from 77 two years ago, proof of the global spread of contemporary art.
Art as a Political Game (Economist)
Jackie Wullschlager surveys the landscape at Venice and declares the winners.
Venice fixes the world’s gaze because it embodies global trends: this year, how fast distinctions are collapsing between museum and gallery, public and commercial exhibitions, and the roles of dealer, curator and collector. So it is a lovely twist in this marketplace delirium that the stillest, most thoughtful exhibition takes place at a new private museum launched by a fashion house: the Prada Foundation’s Ca’ Corner della Regina, an imposing Grand Canal palazzo with a façade of Istrian stone, frescoes lining a stunning piano nobile and untreated earth floors and open brickwork that set off modern art perfectly – especially the 1950s-60s Italian works at the intellectual core of Miuccia Prada’s collection.Continue Reading
David Velasco has some tart words for what’s become of the Venice Biennale:
It’s a town of hyperbole and hubris, the sort of place where you can park your 377-foot megayacht right against the Sestiere Castello and set up a security fence blocking off half the street, detouring the yachtless hoi polloi who have to walk to the Biennale. A place where one might spot guardian snipers in buoys floating in the shallow waters surrounding such yachts. The sort of place from which, just for fun, a prominent collector may fly out several dozen “friends” for a one-night rendezvous at El Bulli. A place whereCourtney Love might appear at a party like an apparition, breeze through three tiers of velvet ropes, have a conversation with Michael Stipe and Jay Jopling, and then walk, barefoot, through the broken glass back to her hotel room. “It used to be you’d just go to the Giardini, go to your dinner, go to your afterparty, and then go home,” curator Christian Rattemeyer sighed at that particular party. Did the billionaires ship Miami to Venice?
Everything is Illuminated (Scene & Herd/ArtForum)
Olav Velthius has a wonderful piece in The Art Newspaper dissecting the relationship between the Venice Biennale and sales of Contemporary art:
No matter how hard its curators have tried to deny it, the biennale’s impact on the art market is notable: showing in Venice speeds up sales, gets artistic careers going, cranks up price levels and helps artists land a dealer ranked higher in the market’s hierarchy. While business may be conducted in a more circumspect way than at an art fair or in a commercial gallery, and money may not be changing hands in the Arsenale or the Giardini, the market is never asleep. During the biennale’s opening days, dealers such as Berlin- and London-based Sprüth Magers, with five artists in Venice this year, or Zurich-based Eva Presenhuber (seven artists in this year’s edition), will be gauging how deep the interest is in specific works on display, calculating the best way to “place” pieces in the hands of trusted collectors or schmoozing with museum curators. To exploit the Venice Effect, numerous others exhibiting at the biennale, among them, Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla (Lisson Gallery) and Barbara Visser (Annet Gelink Gallery), will have works for sale at Art Basel, the world’s most important modern and contemporary art fair, which opens its doors only a week later (15-19 June, pp15-18). Their dealers’ credo: “See it in Venice, buy it in Basel.”
The Venice Effect (The Art Newspaper)
The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia blog spoke to Ranjit Hoskote about his picks for India’s first-ever Venice Biennale that opens in early June:
The goal of the India pavilion, said Mr. Hoskote, is to “critique the idea of the nation-state as something unitary or territorial.” The 42-year-old independent curator, critic and poet recently has divided his time between India, Germany and the Netherlands.
His lineup will include Zarina Hashmi, a veteran printmaker, long based in New York, whose minimalist works tend to explore spatial boundaries. Kerala-born artist Gigi Scaria, now based in Delhi, poses questions about displacement and class prejudice in his installations, videos and photography. Then there’s Praneet Soi, who divides his time between Calcutta and Amsterdam and produces politically charged paintings and sculptures on war and other global issues.
Mr. Hoskote has also picked talent from Assam in India’s often-neglected northeast region to represent the country in Venice. The Desire Machine Collective runs an alternative art space on a ferry and experiments with such works as a “sound map” inspired by a sacred forest.
India Heads to the Venice Biennale (Scene Asia/Wall Street Journal)