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

Today was my last full day in Venice since I’m planning an extra-trip for tomorrow – let me surprise you – and Sunday I’ll be heading back to Milan to catch my flight back home.

Venice
Look from one bridge at the other – and there are still 433 more to chose from.

Therefore today I did enjoy the city to the max: Eat, Pay, Look.

Commuting like every day from my lovely B&B to Piazzale Roma, for a moment again almost nauseated with awe, I got myself together and crossed the Ponte della Costituzione  – the least charming one of the 435 bridges that are connecting 121 islets and making them Venice.

When travelling, I become sort a traditionalist, frequenting favorite places daily, ordering the same stuff – probably this is some sort of security I like in contrast to the independent way of travelling.

Anyway, next to the railway station Santa Lucia you’ll find a place called “Brek”. In the front part is a bar where you can get coffee and drinks and some sandwiches, slices of pizza – the Italian carbohydrate program. In the back is a “restaurant”. It’s a self service, but e. g. the meat you order is grilled freshly. Then they have some pasta dishes and a salad bar. It’s a tad bit horrible, but I sort of like it, and I like that fact that many Venetians come here because it’s not a tourist trap (although tourist also come here).

Brek in Venice
“Brek” – probably one of the most truly Venetian places.

If you are on a special trip to Venice – like first time to Europe, honeymoon, anniversary, or you have a little extra cash and don’t need to watch your expenses, you might prefer a coffee on Saint Mark’s square that will burn a hole of about 14 €uros in your pocket – and I don’t think that’s a crazy waste of money but I wish you well and hope you’ll enjoy it. I do things like that sometimes: in Havanna I had lunch worth two Cuban monthly salaries – but I absolutely wanted to experience the ‘La Guarida’ restaurant I had seen in a movie.

But I also like folksy cheap, especially since this is my 7th trip to Venice, and while I’m still amazed by the city itself, I don’t spend money on costy touristy things like coffee at fancy cafés anymore.

Alley in Venice
Venetian working class heroes on a break; to me all Venetians are heroes coping with the invasion of 10 millions of tourist every year (plus 14 millions of day trippers)

While the food and especially the drinks in the front part of “Brek” are absolutely ok, I won’t tell you that the hot food in the back is good, because it isn’t. Even though it’s unexpensive, they still achieve a bad price-quality-ratio.
But for a quick snack with a good coffee and free internet access in the morning or a quick Spritz with some crisps and more free internet in the late afternoon – see you at “Brek”.

Roofs of Venice
Roofs of Venice.

From “Brek” it was just a ten minutes…trek (I love this one) to a venue I was looking very much forward to. Today were three great exhibitions on my list – and not one did disappoint me!

Palazzo Mora

Like I announced in the post on Monday, there are different parts of the group exhibition Personal Structures: Open Borders, and today I got to the largest one taking place on three floors of the Palazzo Mora located on Venice’s main street Strada Nova.

Palazzo Mora
Exhibition with a view.
Sculptures by the Slovak artists Robert Szittay (left) and Miroslav Trubač (right)

Guys, almost every one of the works on display would be worth an extended, glorious presentation. Since this is not possible, I picked the following four – but there could have been as well others; there was simply too much to chose from.

Petra Barth

(born 1964 in Germany)

I like the intensity and expression of the faces Petra Barth captures with her camera. Her black and white photos are so classical and the motives just speak for themselves – no filters, no action – just plain photography.

In her work “Mochileros” she shows portraits of people who crossed the border to the United States illegally in search of a better living. The term “Mochileros” is usually used for backpackers – and although these people might have had backpacks, their journey was certainly not a joy ride.

Petra Barth and Se Yoon Park
Petra Barth Mochileros (back)
Se Yoon Park Light Darkness and the Tree (front)

Dolk 

(born 1979 in Bergen/Norway)

Dolk is a pseudonym of this ‘Norwegian Banksy’ – one of the most recognized street artists. Since 2006 he is also represented by galleries.
At the Mora are two of his ‘paintings’ made by staples. Let him inspire you to what to do on a long, boring day at the office…

Dolk
Two shimmering ‘paintings’
Dolk
From close you can see that the pattern consists of staples with torn pieces of paper underneath.


Beatriz Gerenstein

(born in Argentina, lives in Miami)

I like about these bags made from bronze that Beatriz Gerenstein criticizes the superficial status symbol of a handbag, but at the same time they are very pretty – actually an object of desire (and after schlepping all my stuff criss cross Venice, I think with a bag like this I’d be much better of).

Beatriz Gerenstein
Beatriz Gerenstein Objects of Desire
Man, a bag like this would save you so much!


Sohn Paa

(born 1967 in Daego/South Korea)

After having been ‘only’ a painter, Sohn Paa is now constructing beautiful objects from acupuncture needles – millions of acupuncture needles!
Just like Dolk’s ‘paintings’, Sohn Paa’s sculptures look great from far – and blow you away when you take a closer look what they are actually made of: there it’s staples, here it’s needles!

Sohn Paa
Three objects – nice looking from far….

Sohn Paa
….amazing from close.

Sohn Paa
An object like this spares the museum a “Please do not sit” sign.

Fondazione Prada

Last Sunday I walked in the rain to the Fondazione Prada in Milan and after today I have to say that the exhibition at their Venice branch is even more impressive – no wonder, they have to compete not only with the Biennale, but also with solo exhibition by Hirst, Hockney and Fabre.

Since 2011, the Fondazione Prada is housed at the Ca’ Corner della Regina, constructed between 1723 and 1728 by Domenico Rossi.

Fondazione Prada Venezia
The raw walls of the old Palazzo make a perfect screen.

Since May 13 and still till November 26 the German multimedia project “The boat is leaking. The captain lied.” is taking place there. Photo-artist

Thomas Demand

– who seems to be the Prada’s pet since in Milan he has one of the very few permanent exhibits – and his compatriot Alexander Kluge (right now featured at the Folkwang in Essen/Germany with a big retrospective of his work) got there respective works staged in a mind-blowing manner by designer Anna Viebrock.

Fondazione Prada Venezia
Doors- one of the installation’s important artsy elements.

Gigantic can be big – it only needs a good idea to fill the space – literally and metaphorically. The Ca’ Corner della Regina is a huge building with lots of space, but three big artists were able to fill it.

Morbelli
Angela Morbelli: Il Natala dei rimasti 
(Christmas of Those Left Behind)
One of my favorite paintings in the whole wide word (www) was the initial ignition for this installation.

They used the quite run down structures for a sinister atmosphere, but built with raw material like plywood and wood rooms in the rooms that, due to the material used, partly deem like crates. But there are these fancy doors – heavy, padded doors. Or mirrored doors. Leading to another room. It’s like a maze. Have you been to this room before? Was the room the same? Slowly you can imagine what Alice must have felt like. The screening of Alexander Kluge’s experimental films makes the whole scenario even more surreal. Then there are Thomas Demand’s images – all constructed from cardboard. Is it a dream, a nightmare, a different reality. Well, it for sure is “The boat is leaking. The captain lied.”, the fantastic exhibition by Thomas Demand, Alexander Kluge, and Anna Viebrock, curated by Udo Kittelmann at the Fondazione Prada. Another must see show.

Palazzo Franchetti

The show “Glasstress” has been one of my favorite exhibitions since I’ve been coming to Venice for the Biennale. It occupies only one floor of the Palazzo Franchetti, but what they show is just overwhelming.

Karen Lamonte at Glasstress
Glass dresses by Karen Lamonte in the majestic hallway of Palazzo Franchetti.

The fact that it’s probably a bit easier to impress with glass – true to the motto: what – it’s possible to do this in glass?! – the fact remains that the pieces shown are just amazing; yap, it’s incredible what the artists can do in glass!

Glasstress
The chandelier is on permanent display, the other pieces are Brigitte Kowanz Vo-Lumen, Josepha Gasch-Muche T.30/12/07, Josepha Gasch-Muche T.11/06/04,  Siggi Hofer Palazzi per tre voci femminili, Tony Cragg Untitled (from second to the left to right)

Sabine Wiedenhofer at Glasstress
Sabine Wiedenhofer Tribeca

Dustin Yellin at Glasstress
Dustin Yellin Plexit

Erwin Wurm at Glasstress
Erwin Wurm: in the front Vater (father), behind Venetian Sausage small (left) and Mutter (mother)
More about Erwin Wurm’s hilarious sculptures and installations in my post about Duisburg.

Chiesa di Santa Caterina


Rachel Maclean

(born 1987 in Edinburgh)

Two years ago at the 56th Biennale I found this church more or less by incident – and was so lucka since there was the truly spectacular exhibition of Russian Grisha Bruskin’s statues in the pitch dark church forming like a grave for the socialist showpieces.

So I expected again something spectacular, although it doesn’t really make sense, but somehow certain venues seem to attract shows of certain quality. And after I’ve seen Rachel Maclean‘s super fun movie on a Pinocchio trapped in a world of pretentiousness and consumption, I believe that Santa Caterina will never deceive me.

Rachel Maclean
I’m only sad that there was so much to see today so that I didn’t have the time to watch the whole movie, but I hope to have the chance to do so very soon, since it was really cool; and the church makes one fine movie theater.

I was thinking today and realized that we art addicts don’t have only the advantage of not being bothered by bad weather when travelling, we also have the advantage to always have a bathroom available. I’m telling you – Viva Arte 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.

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!

Objection 


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

Synesthesia

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.

Synesthesia
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.

Synestesia
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.

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

No visit to Venice would be complete without getting lost in this web of narrow alleys and “sottopassegi”, the low gateways that nobody recognizes as ‘streets’, and bridges that lead to nowhere. One single wrong turn, one bridge which runs parallel to the one you are supposed to take and you are lost for hours! But wait, this cute little store at the corner, isn’t it…nope it isn’t, it never is, it just looks exactly like the other hundred cute little corner stores.

Canal in Venice
Yes, it is a beautiful place to get lost in. But there comes a moment when you wanna know where you are and how to get home.

Today there is at least Google maps so desperate tourists are wandering around with their eyes on their phones instead on big outspread paper maps. Actually I had the impression that they are as lost as they were a couple of years ago, only that they now have to pay roaming charges (whereby since mid of June Europeans don’t anymore). Today I saw a lost family of five sitting on the doorstep of an abandoned building with their luggage scattered around them contemplating where they did go wrong.

However, although I know the rules – take the alleys you’re familiar with, not alternative ‘parallel’ bridge crossing – I turned towards Fondamente Nove, convinced I’d find my way. Well, I did – about 90 minutes and a couple of helpful Venetians later I actually crashed at the Ristorante I remembered to be good and no rip off although right on the Strada Nova.

Alley in Venice with Laundry
Guess there aren’t too many places in the world where you take pictures of other people’s laundry.

Well, unfortunately things don’t always change for the better, and obviously restaurants don’t either. It was bad and overpriced just like any other tourist trap on Strada Nova, so from tomorrow on I’ll be back to Aperitivi for dinner, I’ve learned my lesson.

Besides this exhausting end of the day, I had a great time visiting the Biennale’s nucleus – I Giardini.

Like I wrote yesterday, the first two sections of this year’s structuring are at the Giardini:


I – Pavilion of Artists and Books 

Olafur Eliasson 

(born 1967 in Copenhagen, works there and in Berlin) 

There were a couple of exhibits I liked. There is of course the dominating project of the art world’s pet Olafur Eliasson: The audience is invited to assemble, together with migrants participating in Eliasson’s project, lamps from wood, recycled yoghurt cups, plastic bags and green LEDs. For a contribution of at least € 250 you can take your lamp home. The money doesn’t go into Mr. Eliasson’s piggy bag, but will be donated to a good cause.

Olafur Eliasson
Olafur’s little workshop. There weren’t too many elves there today.


Edi Rama 

(born 1964 in Tirana) 

Olafur Eliasson’s workshop is located in front of wall with a beautifully designed wallpaper – definitely on of my favorite pieces, even not for the motive itself, but for the fact that the artist has been Albania’s prime minister since 2013 and besides being an artist, he’s also a writer and used to be a basketball player. I live in a country where the chancellor used to be a physicist; that’s only hot on ‘The Big Bang Theory’.

Edi Rama
Not only does he run an whole country, no, Edi also finds time to draw beautiful designs on an entire wall.

Ye Liu 

(born 1964 in Beijing) 

At these major art events it’s sometimes so refreshing to see just a neat painting. And Ye Liu’s paintings of books – open and closed – are just neat. I refuse to search for the deeper meaning.

Ye Liu
This is so German: Not only was Rilke one of Germany’s most important poets, the yellow Reclam edition used to be every student’s night mare: All the more or less boring classics had to be bought in this small, cheap edition.


II – Pavilion of Joys and Fears 

While I liked a lot of things at the Pavilion of Artists and Books, the one of Joys and Fears, although one of the most promising titles, did not impress me much.

Marwan 

(born 1934 in Damascus, died 2016 in Germany) 

Eeny meeny I choose you – I pick Marwan since he was a successful Syrian in Gemany…

Marwan
Selfportrait by Marwan

Kiki Smith 

(born 1954 in Nurnberg, lives in New York and Catskill) 

…and Kiki Smith since I’ve learned about her art by an TV show, which can be seen as pretty embarassing or unusual (it was on ‘The L Word’, and I go for the latter view, just so you know).

Kiki Smith
Kiki Smith’s own hall at the Giardini’s central pavilion.


…and other nice things I saw outside the Giardini:

Pavilion of Ivory Coast 

I must say that my good impression regarding African contemporary arts persists: After the great exhibition I saw at the PAC last weekend, the two African pavilions I’ve seen by now where some of the best collaterali so far.

Jems Koko Bi 

(born 1966 in Sifra / Ivory Coast) 

Jems Koko Bi is participating for the third time in a row – which is for the strong expression in his work and probably also for the very controversial topic of the social and economic situation of
Africans and hence migration.

Jems Koko Bi
To know Jems Koko Bi means to know his boat installations.

Joana Choumali 

(born 1974 in Abidjan / Ivory Coast) 

The photographer Joana Choumali has created one of the best works I have seen at the Biennale by now: Also referring to the topic of immigration, she takes a person out of one photograph of a city and places it in another one. She points out in a very touching way how this person leaves a gap in the original spot and looks out of place in the new one. A very emphatic way of sketching the
problem and a very interesting artistic translation.

Casablanca Miami
Casablanca Miami
Cut out on the left, pasted in the right – and emphasized the image with embroidery.

Abidjan Paris
Abidjan Paris


Personal Structures 

Carol A. Feuerman 

(born 1945 in Hartford) 

I already introduced Carol Feuerman’s swimsuit ladies in my review on the exhibition “Personal Structures” at Palazzo Bembo. At the Giardino della Marinaressa are many more of her ladies – along with a gentleman – and since they are all bathing beauties, outside they look much more in their element.

Monumental Quan
Monumental Quan

Bibi on the BAll
Bibi on the Ball
I’m grateful to the guy who anchored his big-ass yacht right in front of the garden so that I was able to photograph Bibi before an adequate backdrop.

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.

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

I will never forget the moment I arrived for the first time in Venice: twelve years ago – first stop of a rail trip to Cinque Terre (by the way another piece of paradise fallen on earth) via Verona, Florence, and Pisa.

Sunset in Venice
Under the Venetian Sky.

We got out at Piazzale Roma, it was July, it was hot, Venice was packed, hordes of (mainly American) tourists pushed themselves -and each other – through the narrow alleys and wider streets; usually the epitome of hell.

But I didn’t find the energy to nag (and usually I’m very energetic when it comes to nagging) – I was simply mesmerized by this surreal place, the narrow sidewalks along the canals criss crossing the historic center, the small bridges leading from micro-neighborhood to micro-neighborhood and sometimes just ending at a house entrance or even just a wall.

Where to take photographs? How can you pick a particularly atmospheric corner, which is the most enchanting view? Every single alley and niche is just mind-blowing.

Gondolieri in Venice
Traffic jam on a canal. I suppose the people in the gondola had something more romantic in mind than crashing into delivery boats.
OSM – oh sole mio!

I’m well aware of the social and ecologic problems Venice is facing, of the struggle against the water, the decay, the masses of people and the merciless cruise industry: Although the greater Venice area has more than 260,000 inhabitants, less than 60,000 are living in the historic center. Every year this little island built on Millions of steles that became a UNESCO world heritage in 1987 bends under ten millions of visitors – and I’m not using the verb ‘welcome’ on purpose – plus an additional 14 millions day trippers. It’s a miracle that the place is still there – but it definitely is an endangered species.

Cruise Ship Placards
In case you didn’t know: Venetians are happy to inform you.

Nevertheless, Venezia, you are one of a kind and will always have a very special place in my heart.

Saint Mark's Square
After today’s heavy rain at noon there is aqua alta on the Marcus square. Only the kids are thrilled playing in this unexpected kiddy pool.


57. Biennale 

This year’s biennal is taking place from May 17 to November 26. It’s the 57th issue and it’s the 4th time that it’s curated by a woman; I find that incredible!

Christine Macel - Biennale bye:myself
This year’s curator Christine Macel
(© La Biennale di Venezia, Photo: Andrea Avezzù)

This year’s curator is Ms Christine Macel, born in 1969 in Paris, who has been a curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris since 2000.

She’s being criticized for not being ambitious enough regarding the public relevance of the event, since she’s focusing on the art it self and shouts out “Viva Arte Viva”. There is enough space to interpret this catchphrase in different ways, and Christine Macel left as well space for the artists to interpret it; and the nine sections’ mottos. I find her concept very discreet and thoughtful.

Although I’m undoubtably a political person, the art world’s big conscious-critical-political gestures and poses often deem so pretentious. Two years ago there was a reading of Karl Marx’ “Capital”  – I mean, come one, how pretentious is that!? (This page-turner celebrates its 150s anniversary next Thursday, by the way, so merci beaucoup, Christine, for not taking up this issue)
I had the feeling that only people who were tired from all the walking took advantage of the empty chairs in front of the stage and put up with the spectacle for the benefit of a short break.

So anyway, Mme. Macel declares her “Viva Arte Viva” to be inspired by humanism, and I find, that’s a beautiful idea that leaves enough space for inspiration and creativity. And maybe it’s a rather female pitch: not constantly feeling the urge to prove to the world how ‘intellectual’ and in control you are. Let’s get real, after 17 highly successful years being in charge of one of world’s most important art venues, this lady has nothing to prove to anyone.

Since I preferred to visit the Arsenale first, I have to skip the two first chapters which will be added tomorrow when I go to the Giardini.

Here comes part one of the Arsenale – the seven central pavilions. The post about the national pavilions will follow in part two mid of this week.


III – Pavilion of the Common

Lee Mingwei 

(born in Taiwan in 1964, currently living in Paris and New York)

the mending project
The Mending Project
An art project in the aftermath of 9/11


IV – Pavilion of the Earth

Kananginak Pootoogook

(born 1935 in Cape Dorset/Canada, died in 2010)

Kananginak and his wife
Untitled – Kananginak and his Wife Shooyoo in their Home.
Lovely pencil drawings by Mr. Pootoogook who is an Inuit.

V – Pavilion of Traditions

Francis Upritchard

(born 1976 in Christchurch/New Zealand)

Francis Upritchard
Various puppets – representing traditions, which remain unspecified.

Actually in this pavilion the best exhibit was the film “David” by Xiao Guan, showing us all a mirror how we consume art. While the video shows the overpresence of the David-statue and its consumption, the images are accompanied by a supposedly naive song about David – but if you don’t get distracted by the hilarious side, the message makes you blush.

VI – Pavilion of the Shamans

Ernesto Neto

(born 1964 in Rio de Janeiro)

Ernesto Neto
Since I wasn’t particularly crazy about any of the exhibits at the Shaman Pavilion, I’m introducing the most
spectacular one, the centerpiece that was covered by every media.

VII – Dionysian Pavilion

Kader Attia

(born 1970 in Dugny/France, now living in Berlin and Paris)




This Installation is simply genius: Voices from female Arabic singers make sand vibrate in glass globes. And it actually works only with the voices, it does not vibrate when there are e. g. instruments. Absolutely fascinating! And a clear feminist message, too.


VIII – Pavilion of Colors

Sheila Hicks

(born in Nebraska, lives between Paris and New York)

Sheila Hicks
Pavilion of Colors – what could be more iconic than Sheila Hicks’ Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands?!


IX – Pavilion of Time and Infinity

Liliana Porter

(born 1941 in Buenos Aires, lives in New York)

Liliana Porter
While the Pavilion of the Shamans didn’t offer me anything really touching, at the Pavilion of Time and Infinity were
various pieces that I’d find worthy to be introduced. But I’m sticking to the cutest one, which was this tiny chaotic scenery
called El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves (The man with the axe and other short situations)


…and other nice things I saw outside the Arsenale.

Pavilion of Taiwan

Tehching Hsieh

(born 1950 in Nanzhou/Taiwan, lives in Brooklyn/New York)
One Year Performance 1980 – 1981

Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance 1980 – 1981 (Time Clock Piece) from FACT on Vimeo.


Pavilion of Mongolia

Chimeddorj Shagdarjav

(born 1954 in Mongolia)

Chimeddorj Shagdarjav
I’m Bird
Yes, cranes are graceful – but here there are guns.


Pavilion of Andorra

Eve Ariza

(born 1973 in France, lives in Andorra)


Eve ARiza
Murmuri
Eve Ariza is giving women earthen voices.



Pavilion of Macao

Wong Cheng Pou

(born 1960 in Macao)


Wong Cheng Pou
A Bonsai of my Dream
The cutest name for the cutest sculptures and corresponding etchings.
These two guys actually carry the one in the middle through the wall.


Pavilion of Hong Kong

Samson Young

(born 1979 in Hong Kong)

Samson Young
Songs for Disaster Relief
A super fun and campy installation with lots of cheesy music. I was relieved in a blink of an eye (actually, I’d rather need a metaphor with ear in it rather than eye…)

Chiesa della Pietà

Safet Zec

(born 1943 in Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Safet Zec
Exodus
I was so glad having stumbled by incident over this fantastic, intense paintings depicting different scenarios from the current refugee topic, painted in the fashion of the old masters like Tintoretto. It’s amazing when a single painting is telling you a whole story. Not to be missed!


And this is where I had aperitivo tonight

Tonight I treated myself to an aperitivo at a cute little tavern right on the main street crossing Cannaregio. Here the niblets do not come with your drink, but they are also more sophisticated.
Aperitivo
I had a fine little meatloaf (upper left), a melanzane parmigiano, a piece of bread with gorgonzola and nuts, and a piece of stuffed squid on polenta – could be worse, right?!

Cantina Vecia Carbonera
Cannaregio 2329

30121 Venice
Phone: + 39 – 41 – 71 03 76

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

So this morning I took the train from Milan via Pisa to Venice Mestre station which is on the main land – in the ‘real’ world. Of course Mestre is not as surreal and dreamy as Venice itself, but there are certainly some advantages staying there – and if it’s only for the lower prices for accommodations, food, practically everything.

Gondoliere in Venice
Venice is absolutely stunning – but Venice is also its own cliché.

Although Trenitalia has a bad rep, I cannot complain: I’ve taken an fantastic number of trains criss cross Italy and never had any problem, never got stuck, nothing. Just comfy, fast, and pretty cheap: I’m paying 20 €uro each way by regional trains that take about 3 hours. A fast train needs one hour less and costs from 35 €uro up – so it’s up to you whether you choose speed over price (I would if I had e. g. only a weekend, but I have a whole week: beata me (= lucky me)).

Talking ’bout cheap: Before coming here I’ve luckily found a great site where you can book bed&breakfast places at really unbeatable prices – it’s called Bed and Breakfast Italia and now I’m staying with Marina who’s a doll – sweet and helpful and friendly.
The place is not in the historic centre, but in Mestre in a lovely neighborhood – by bus like ten minutes. She charges 50 €uro per night, basic breakfast included, and feel very comfortable here.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

In many places Monday is not a good day for art enthusiasts since many venues are closed. Not the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, so Peggy, here I come.

Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni - Guggenheim bye:myself
The “Palazzo Vernier dei Leonie”, that used to be Ms Guggenheim’s home and houses now her impressive art collection
that she donated to the Samuel R. Guggenheim Foundation.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: Matteo de Fina)

Peggy Guggenheim was born as Marguerite Guggenheim in 1898 in New York. She was one of the three daughters of the industrialist Benjamin Guggenheim who in 1912 was at the wrong time in the wrong place: on the ‘Titanic’ whilst it was sinking.

Salomon Robert Guggenheim, his brother and consequently Peggy’s uncle, was also an industrialist, but also a philanthrope and patron of arts.

Back to Peggy, who in 1921 moved to Paris and got involved with the very exciting, fresh, new, and daring art scene and people like Djuna Barnes, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp. She got married to French writer Laurence Veil and the couple got to kids Pegeen and Sindbad (yes, I’ve heard this name, don’t point, let’s pretend we didn’t notice).

After divorcing Veil, Peggy opened and closed galleries in London and Paris, being lectured and instructed about art by her artist friends. During her years in Paris just before WWII she was able to extend her collection significantly by buying at extremely low prices from artist who had to flee.
On the other hand she donated 500,000 Francs to the Emergency Rescue Committee that helped prosecuted people escaping Vichy France. Being of Jewish descent, in 1941 she had to leave, too, and she went to the United States together with her later husband, German artist Max Ernst, whose art was considered ‘degenerated’.

Max Ernst - Guggenheim bye:myself
La Toilette de la mariée (Attirement of the Bride) Painting by Peggy Guggenheim’s second husband Max Ernst, who used the decalcomanie technique in many of his most important paintings: First he applied the color with a sheet and by removing it, the still wet color formed a pattern or
motive that Ernst completed to an image.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: Andrea Sarti/CAST1466)

In 1947, Peggy Guggenheim came back to Europe and settled in Venice. She had divorced Max Ernst who got involved with the surrealist artist Dorothea Tanning.
She moved into the Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni, that she opened as a museum to the public in 1951.

giardino al Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni bye:myself
The beautiful garden of Guggenheim’s palazzo – with lots of arts even outside.
Also Guggenheim’s grave is found in this yard right next  the graves of her dogs.
And since I’m a moron sometimes, I pitied her a lot when I fist visited the site because I thought that she had lost 14 children; but it’s also a little bit her fault since she wrote on their plaque that there are resting her ‘beautiful babies’.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: David Heald)

Alexander Calder - Guggenheim bye:myself
On of Alexander Calder’s magical, airy mobiles.
But check how it matches the artfully forged black
doors and windows.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: Andrea Sarti/CAST1466)

Anyway, in 1969, Peggy Guggenheim bequeathed her collection to the Salomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York. She died ten years later in Italy and is buried in the Palazzo’s patio.

To learn more about Peggy Guggenheim, I recommend her very entertaining biography “Confession of an Art Addict”

Room - Guggenheim bye:myself
This looks nothing like my living room. I would be already happy just looking at the long, elegant Brancusi-bird
to the right.
(© Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Photo: David Heald)

One small room is dedicated to Peggy Guggenheim’s daughter Pegeen Vail who was an artist. Sadly, she suffered from depressions and committed suicide at the age of 41.

One of Pegeen’s paintings. I like the bright colors and the fun motive – quite mattisish. I think she was a talented artist.

On the occasion of this year’s biennale there was an exhibition on Mark Tobey that I’ve missed
by just one day. Now there is only Picasso left who has many fans – so he doesn’t need me. Anyway, this exhibition is titled “Picasso. On the Beach” with the focus on one of Peggy Guggenheim’s favorite paintings. This show will go on till January 8, 2018 – but visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection is always worth a visit.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection 
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni
Dorsoduro 701
30123 Venezia
Phone: +39 – 41 – 240 54 11
Email: info@guggenheim-venice.it

Open from Wednesday to Monday 10 a. m. to 6 p. m.

François Pinault Foundation

Not only was Peggy Guggenheim a poor…angel compared to her family members; in comparison to Monsieur François Pinault she was a pauper. But there are only 64 people worldwide who have more money than Monsieur Pinault who according to the Forbes-list of 2015 owns a piggy bank filled with 14.9 billions. He’s making his money with companies like Gucci, Bottega Veneta and many more.

So it was probably no big deal for him to shop the Palazzo Grassi from Gianni Agnelli, owner of the Fiat car company. Sounds like a very posh flee market.

Anyway, Monsieur Pinault is now presenting his collection of modern art at the Palazzo Grassi that was designed by the architect Giorgio Massari, who also created Ca’ Rezzonico, and was finished in 1772.

On the occasion of the Biennale, Pinault ‘hired’ art superstar Damian Hirst. Damian Hirst, born in 1965 in the art cradle Bristol. While he did a lot for the art by organizing the exhibition “Freeze” in 1988 which initiated the Young British Artist ‘movement’, he over the years lost his originality.

Damian Hirst - calf
Those were the days, my friend, when Hirst upset the
audience by cutting calves in half…

He did shock the audience in 2007 when he finished the diamond skull “For the Love of God” that has an estimated value of 300 million US$. His animals – whole or cut in parts – that he preserved in formaldehyde have caused admiration or disgust.

Damien Hirst
….and his statues skinned themselves.

Hirst is world’s wealthiest artist: He holds a wealth of 1 billion US$. With that he could by a couple of his diamond skulls.

But obviously he set the bar quite high; and it’s difficult to keep up with his own standards.

For the Palazzo Grassi he created a ‘treasure’ of statues, tools, coins and medals that supposedly was salvaged and is now on display, covered with all sorts of sea plants and corals and barnacles. There are also films on display telling how divers find the treasures.

Damian Hirst - Demon with Bowl
This center piece called Demon with Bowl is 18 meters / 59 feet high.
Yet another proof that size doesn’t matter.

Damian Hirst - Demon with Bowl
Here a film what the Demon with Bowl looked like under water – before he was supposedly found.

Damian Hirst - Mickey Mouse
And here is Mickey watching a photograph how he was found in the Ocean.
Using trashy, trivial, commerce symbols, Mr. Hirst, hasn’t been original since Warhol, Lichtenstein, Koons…..

The exhibition is in two big venues. The story is not original enough keep up the suspense looking at so many exhibits. The pieces are not beautiful enough to fascinate the visitors. The whole is not quirky enough to blow your mind. It’s big. It’s very big. It’s too big. It’s interesting insofar that it shows that gigantomania is not enough to cast a spell over the art audience.

Of course everybody is talking about the show, every art magazine has written about it, they are even advertising for it on the back of the bus tickets – what a sell out.

Today I’ve been only to the Palazzo Grassi part, the Punta Dogana will follow in a later post.

Palazzo Grassi
Campo San Samuele 3231
Venice

Open Wedneday to Monday 10 a. m. to 7 p.  m.

Palazzo Bembo

At every Biennale there is the exhibition “Personal Structures” taking place at Palazzo Bembo (and Palazzo Mora as well as Giardini Marinaressa, but these two venues will be covered in a later post).

It always a quite eclectic mix of very different pieces from artists from many countries – at the Bembo for instance from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Viet Nam, France, Australia, the US and many more. The mix is so diverse, that I think everybody finds something he likes.

Palazzo Bembo
Graham Hay Critical Mass – ice cones made of paper clay that can be taken as a souvenir (front) and
Kimberley Gundle A Celebration of Cultural Adornment of the Massai of Kenya and Tanzania (back)

Palazzo Bembo
Xenia Hausner Exiles 2 
Sometimes it takes only an ideal, appealing colors and a good painting technique to create decent piece of art.

Palazzo Bembo
Fun sculptures in technical perfection by Carole A. Feuerman in the backdrop of Antoine Rose’s beach photographs.
Kudos to the curators for this congruent arrangement.

At every Biennale, this exhibition is on of my favorites.

Palazzo Bembo
Riva del Carbon 4793
30124 Venice

Aperitivo

My landlady recommended me the coolest place for an aperitivo: Taverna al Remer. It’s located in a teeny tiny alley close to Chiesa di Giovanni Crisostomo. You turn into the Sotoportego del Remer – a really narrow alley without any sign, but you find it on Google maps.

Taverna Remer
Wide range of drinks at the rustic bar…
Taverna Remer
….accompanied by tasty niblets.

During their happy hour from 5.30 to 7 p. m. they have all sort of lovely drinks and a very generous choice of niblets to choose from as much as you like.

Taverna Al Remer
Cannaregio 5701
30121 Venice
Phone: + 39 – 41 – 522 87 89
Email: taverna.remer@yahoo.it

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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.

Weekend in Milan – an ‘aperitivo’ for the eye

Squeezing in an art weekend in Milan while on my way to Venice. What – do I think there won’t be enough art waiting for me at my final destination? By no means! I’ve still got free miles on Eurowings (formerly known as German wings, wisely changed their name after one of their pilots flew an aircraft on purpose into a mountain in 2015), and they don’t go to Venice.

Duomo di Milano

Piazza del Duomo – with the iconic cathedral.

Plus I’ve been to Milan for two weeks last year for my wonderful Italian class and do know that there are a couple of highly interesting venues housing highly exquisite exhibitions. To be honest, this is – besides the fantastic ‘aperitivo’-habit –  the only thing I love about Milan; otherwise it’s not Italian-historic-romantic enough for me.

But this weekend was awesome: great exhibitions woke – as an aperitivo for the eye – great expectations what Venice will have to offer.

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