57. Biennale in Venice – A Week in September – Thursday

This is my seventh time to Venice – the last three times were on the occasion of the Biennale. This takes away the urge of  doing all the heavy duty tourist activities like riding on the ridiculously overpriced Vaporetti, the water buses, or standing in line forever to see Saint Mark’s or buying tacky glass figurines from Murano.

Punta della Dogana
View from the Punta della Dogana at the Giudecca island.

But it doesn’t mean that my days are not busy. Even without constantly losing my way I’d be on the alley (since there is no road) again from dawn till dusk.

Mind you during the Biennale there are about 120 artists from 51 countries – spread over 86 National Presentations, Special Projects, and Collaterali. You certainly don’t get bored.

Things that did not bore me today

Pavilion of Antigua and Barbuda

Frank Walter

(born  in 1926 in Antigua, died there in 2009)

Not only is Frank Walter’s art in its raw way quite intriguing, the man himself is fascinating: Being some sort of Antiguan W.E.B. du Bois, he was not only a painter and poet, he was also the first person of color (descending from slaves and slave owners) who managed a sugar plantation. However, he was a very humanist and philosophic personality and is said to be one of the most complex Caribbean artists.

This exhibition, set up as a cabinet of art and curiosities, portraits him in an appreciative and complete way.

Frank Walter
Frank Walter was not only a painter, he was also a poet and writer.

Frank Walter
Paintings in a raw, very Afro-Caribbean style.

Republic of San Marino Pavilion

Friendship Project

What a name, right? I expected so much; sometimes that’s a big mistake. If I’m not very mistaken, there are 14 artists involved – and I didn’t like one of them; actually I disliked quite a few.

Friendship Project
Fu Yuxiang: Migrant Aliens
I expected friends, instead I was introduced to some extra-terrestrial Adams family.

Ateneo Veneto
At the Ateneo Veneto venue at least the ceiling is gorgeous, painted immaculately by Palma Il Giovane

I intended to introduce on my blog only those parts of the Biennale that I really liked (and the “Big Points” like the pavilions, the Damian Hirst show, the exhibition at the Prada Foundation (yet to come)), but this was so bad that i felt like including it as a counterpoint.

Pavilion of Grenada

This is a nice collective exhibition – I particularly liked the installation by Milton Williams, the aerial “Sea Lungs” by Asher Mains, and the painting/film installation by Zena Assi.

Milton Williams
Milton Williams: Sustenance (front)
Asher Mains: Sea Lungs (back)

And then there is an exhibit that’s somehow connected to the one at the next venue, the Punta della Dogana, but see for yourself.

Punta della Dogana

Damian Hirst

So I went to see the second part of the exhibition “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable” that I already disliked on Monday – for its gigantomania, for its pointlessness and its tacky performance. Someone said the part at the Punta della Dogana venue was better than the one at Palazzo Grassi; well, it isn’t.

But what I find absolutely wrecking unbelievable is this:

Punta della Dogana
Damien Hirst: Mermaid (planned since 2007)
Punta della Dogana
Damien Hirst: Mermaid under water

Jason de Caires Taylor
Jason de Caires Taylor – created the first under water sculpture park off the West Coast of Grenada in 2006

Jason de Caires Taylor
Also mermaid-like sculptures

What a coincidence, right?
I mean, if I paint the sea in my painting blue and you paint the sea in your painting blue, I will not accuse you of copying. But do two people independently have the same or very, very similar idea of creating sculptures and sinking them in the ocean and letting them get covered with algae and corals and shells….

I also need to point out that Jason de Caires Taylor started his art project to raise awareness for the fact that we have already lost 40 per cent of the coral reefs and this is going on. So his approach is an ecological one.

Abbazia di San Gregorio

Jan Fabre

(born 1958 in Antwerp)

The first time I saw something by Jan Fabre was at the Elgiz Museum in Istanbul: An evening dress made of shimmering glass beetles – so cool!

Jan Fabre
This sculptural installation gives a hint where the expression ‘boner’ might come from.

The exhibition at this former abbey is quite mixed – if I see another skull, I scream! Not because they scare me, no, they bore me. No! More! Skulls!

Jan Fabre
Skulls are only ok on Zurbaran’s friars.

But there are other pieces that are fine, I particularly like the pigeons he seated – including their faeces – along the sill around the patio.

Jan Fabre
When doves…well, not cry.
Venice Palazzo
That’s the extra treat in Venice: Even if the exhibition doesn’t blow you away, the venue and the views do for sure!


Michal Cole 

(born 1974 in Haifa, lives and works in London)

Ekin Onat

(born 1976 in Istanbul)

These two ladies put an ingenious, powerful, and even fun exhibition together, that’s not to be missed. Definitely one of the best shows at this moment in Venice!

Ekin Onat
Ekin Onat: There is no lack of security here
The chair covers, the carpet, everything is made of cop uniforms and accessories.
In the upper hall is a film where the artists quotes incidents of cops killing people – accidently or on purpose. No lack of security….

Michal Cole
In a pitch dark kitchen women scream in pots and bowls – the only lights around.

Michal Cole
In the film Neverland Michal Cole is depicting a female Sisyphus.
But the hilarious thing is the sign on the toilet seat saying “Do not use” – and this is not part of the exhibit! So since they needed to put up this sign, does it mean that someonr actually….. Did that person lock the exhibit’s doof so the other visitors waited in the hallway? Did that somehow qualify as a performance? I had so many questions….

Michal Cole and Ekin Onat
Self-portrait of the two fantastic artists. You go, girls!

Palazzo Loredan

Imago Mundi

759 artists from Eastern and Western Canada

It’s nice that Luciano Benneton is carrying his company’s motto ‘United Colors’ also into the art world and supports the artistic image of the world. The current exhibition at the Palazzo Loredan brings together very different artists – some already established, some on the verge of becoming famous – including Inuit and Indigenous.

Fondazione Benetton
One rule the artist have to stick to: Space is limited to 10 x 12 cm

Chiesa di San Samuele

Evan Penny

(born 1953 in South Africa, lives and works in Toronto/Canada)

The sinister atmosphere of this small, dark church underlines the powerful pain in Evan Penny’s  hyper realistic sculptures. A hidden gem – right next to the Palazzo Grassi where the big art outlet is taking place.

Evan Penny
Very compelling exhibition (The artist’s self-portrait on the right)

Chiesa di San Gallo

Paul Benney

(born 1959 in London)

Another creator of somber paintings exhibited in another murky chapel so that his painted flames actually seem to lighten the room.

Paul Benney
Paul Benney Speaking in Tongues
The chiaroscuro gives the image a very baroque appearance.

Palazzo Michiel


True Treu Designers

Actually, there’s an exhibition on design at this Palazzo, but on that occasion there’s a small, but absolutely worth seeing special exhibit from a collective of Turkish designers on the topic of migration – very suitable: Turkey as one of the countries being mostly frequented by immigrants from the Middle East, presenting their sculptures in Italy, being one of the countries mostly frequented by immigrants from Africa.

Neslihan Ișik: New Norms?
Not only the motives, also that they are painted on a vessel that deems Greek or Roman – countries that are the first to receive the major part of migrants coming to Europe.

Argun Dağçinar A Life Vest?
I guess this gilded life vest does not need any explanation referring to migration.

So you see it was a great day. At noon I only had some pizza to go, but in the early evening I sure did enjoy a nice glass of Spritz and a light snack. Life is good – Viva Venezia Viva!

Did I inspire you? Planning on going to Venice?
Get some special advice and detailed information how to get the best for less in the Sunday post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *