After all, of all Italian cities, Milan probably deems the least Italian. No jolly groups sipping Aperol Spritz while playing boccia. Instead, executives rushing from their stately apartment houses to offices in glittering business centers. Hardly a narrow cobblestone alley. Rather big cars on broad avenues. Few statues around. No renaissance. No baroque.
Nevertheless, if you are prepared for what to expect, Milan will not disappoint you. Therefore, let me guide you to the city’s most important art venues – and beyond.
Mount Fuji is certainly one of Japan’s most mesmerizing and iconic sight. A perfectly shaped cone, its top coated by a hood of snow – no wonder this sacred mountain is on top of every visitor’s list.
Although on clear days, you can be lucky to spot it all the way from Tokyo, most people take a day trip either to the Fujigoko Fuji Five Lake region at the northern foot of the mountain or to Hakone, a hot spring region with many grand places to experience….like the Hakone Open Air Museum, an outdoor gallery at the height of beauty.
World-famous Mount Fuji, probably Japan’s most iconic landmark, is a still active volcano, albeit, it erupted for the last time in 1707, so no worries.
While studying Portuguese in Rio de Janeiro, I thought it might be a good idea to take a trip to Belo Horizonte at the weekend; mostly because I wanted to see Inhotim, a botanic garden full of contemporary art.
Young Belo Horizontians drumming with vigor.
Turns out, Inhotim was the only spot worth the travel. But so worth it!
Still let me tell you a bit about Belo Horizonte, although I would never recommend to actually plan a trip there. If you happen to pass through, make sure you don’t miss going to see Inhotim – but we get to that later.
Going to Belo Horizonte by bus from Rio de Janeiro takes about six hours which I find a bit too long for a weekend trip. I was lucky to get really cheap tickets for about 70 US$ round trip – I booked about six weeks ahead.
Going to Belo Horizonte, the views of Minas Gerais from way up high was the most alluring sight of the day.
Like many other Brazilian cities, Belo Horizonte has two airports, one close to the city and about 30 km / 19 mi north. Hence, here comes my first advice: Don’t take the bus that goes to the bus terminal. I thought it would be a good idea since ‘bus terminal’ sounds centrally located. Well, it is, but it is also located in a very bad area. Plus the bus that goes there is the cheap bus for the poorer crowd and it stops at every corner and it takes forever to finally arrive at this shady area.
It’s far better to take the airport shuttle – that costs next to nothing more – and go to Connection Airport Terminal at Av. Álvares Cabral 387, that’s a bit less depressing and dangerous.
A young street vendor selling flip flops on a sidewalk in Belo Horizonte.
Belo Horizonte’s artery is the Avenida Afonso Pena where you find many stores and restaurants. It’s central point is the Praça Sete de Setembro, honoring the centenary of Brazil’s independence. While the square is just an obelisk marking the city’s zero point.
Igreja São José
One bloc down south you’ll see to your right the unusually colored Igreja São José, St. Joseph’s Chruch, founded in 1904 and finished in 1912. At the next bloc to your left already begins the quite nice Parque Municipal Américo Renné Giannetti, the central park.
There are a couple of interesting exhibitions, especially regarding the history of the miners: Belo Horizonte is the capital of the federal state of Minas Gerais, translated as general mines. As a matter of fact, in Minas Gerais – a territory as large as France – you can find a large variety of different mines and extraction fields.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10 a. m. to 7 p. m., weekends from noon and Thursday from noon to 9 p. m.
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil
Another nice place worth visiting is the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, a cultural center financed by the oldest and largest Brazilian Bank. They run cultural centers in various Brazilian cities, and in Belo Horizonte the elegant building alone is worth a visit.
Of course you feel welcome at this grand hall. (Photo: Vagner Costa/CCBB)
The center is open from Wednesday to Monday from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m.
Feira de Arte e Artesanato da Avenida Afonso Pena
What I’ve liked best in Belo Horizonte was the Feira de Arte e Artesanato da Avenida Afonso Pena, an arts and crafts fair that takes place every Sunday from 8 a. m. to 1 p. m. on the Avenida Afonso Pena between Rua da Bahia and Rua dos Guajajaras. It’s not touristy at all, you can buy literally everything you might need in your house – and the best part are the food stands selling really good Brazilian street food.
The market on Avenida Afonso Pena is one of very few treats Belo Horizonte holds for its visitors.
So yes, there are certainly some things to do, but I’ve found the city extremely run down and depressing. The number of obviously deranged, intoxicated people squatting and camping in the streets was overwhelming. I didn’t feel comfortable at all.
I spent one night and took the bus to Brumadinho the next morning.
I don’t know how many buses are actually going from Belo Horizonte to Brumadinho since it’s really not that far. Since I had to make sure to catch my plane the next day, I made reservation online and went with Saritur.
It’s also possible to book a day tour from Belo Horizonte straight to Inhotim and back in one day, but I wasn’t so crazy about getting back the same day…
As I learned from my friendly, hippie-ish landlord, ‘bruma’ is the coal dust – and that’s where the town of Brumadinho got his name from – must be something like ‘Little Coaldust’…
Brumadinho, a friendly little town – about an hour by bus from Belo Horizonte.
I didn’t get to see much of the town itself since I was rushing more or less straight to Inhotim, but what I saw looked tranquil and nice and if I ever come back, I will skip Belo Horizonte and go straight to this cute little place.
I managed to get a room at a guesthouse within walking distance to Inhotim, so that was a plus. The hostel is cute and the hosts get out of their way to make you feel welcome, but unfortunately I must say that it’s not very comfortable: There is only one bathroom for up to eight people, the walls and doors are paper thin so when people are talking or watching TV in the communal area, it’s like you are sitting right next to them. This would be fine and dandy for a hostel-price, but not for the 120 R$ (36 US$) they charged. The night before I paid less in Belo Horizonte for an executive room with all the hotel standards (private bathroom, A/C, TV, fridge etc.).
One of the venue’s best views: Groups of different palm trees and one of Inhotim’s most famous outdoor sculpture, “Invenção da cor, Penetrável Magic Square # 5, De Luxe” by Hélio Oiticica
Anyway, I wasn’t there to hang out at the hostel, I was there so Inhotim could kill me softly with its beauty. And it did, my gosh, how it did!
It all started in the mid 1980 when Bernardo de Mello Paz, one of the few people who could actually say ‘yes’ if rhetorically asked whether he owns a mine, began to establish on his huge piece of land outside of Brumadinho an exquisite botanic garden containing rare and precious species of plants, beautifully arranged on hills and around ponds.
The gardens alone are worth the trip to Inhotim.
This man has a very good taste. In plants, but also in art. Therefore he arranged his art collection, one of the most significant collections of contemporary art in the world, on these premises.
“Deleite” by Brazilian sculptor Tunga was one of the first pieces in Bernardo de Mello Paz’ collection.
There are about 500 works by Brazilian and international artists from about 30 different countries on display; in the gardens and in special galleries.
In 2009, international super star of dots, Yayoi Kusama, contributed her work ‘Narcissus Garden’ that was nominated for the First Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize, granted by the Illinois Institute of Technology.
There are huge sculptures and installations that would never fit in a gallery.
Where else could Chris Burdon show his “Beam Drop Inhotim”, made of some not exactly delicate steel beams? At Inhotim, there’s enough space even for the largest sculptures.
When the dark clouds approached, the installation looked even more dramatic.
There are huge sculptures and installations that do fit in a gallery as long as they can fill the whole room undisturbed.
Another one of Tunga’s quirky installations: “True Rouge”. At Inhotim, they reserved an entire gallery building for this sculpture.
There are sculptures and installations that form a nice, almost symbiotic togetherness.
Symbiosis of nature and art and the visitor – all in one single selfie (in case you wonder: I’m standing in Dan Graham’s “Bisected Triangle” – made of glass and steel – taking a picture of my reflection and the incredible view behind; no filters, no editing involved!)
At Inhotim, there is room for all of this. Since there is space, lots and lots of space.
Yes, you have to do a lot of walking, but if you get too tired, there are lovely young people driving you around in little carts.
Anyway, Inhotim is good to you: there are sockets to recharge your phone or your camera, there is free WiFi. There are many clean bathrooms and many water faucets so that visitors do not necessarily have to buy overpriced drinks; which aren’t overpriced at all, anyway.
Even from the cheaper cafeteria you can enjoy good food – and of course the great view.
There are two restaurants, on more upscale (whereby you get an excellent buffet for about 20 US$ which you’d never get at this price in Europe or in the US) and one more a cafeteria. In addition there are snack bars and ice cream parlors. And lots of shady spots to relax for a while – some equipped with wooden deck chairs or cute lounge chairs, others with extraordinary seats carved in raw wood.
A huge bench made of a humongous tree trunk in front of a…humongous tree trunk.
I’ve been to Louisiana north of Copenhagen – and it was really nice.
I’ve been to Huntington Garden and Library at San Marino in the outskirts of Los Angeles – and it was really very nice.
But none of these places can compare to Inhotim.
Open Tuesday to Friday from 9.30 a. m. to 4.30 p. m., weekends and holidays till 5.30 p. m.
Entrance fee is 44 R$ (13 US$), use of the carts an additional 30 R$ (9 US$) (highly recommended) Charter of a private cart for up to 5 people 500 R$ (150 US$) per day or 200 R$ (60 US$) per hour.
Important: You cannot visit the premises without proof of yellow fever vaccination!
Update: Since Summer 2018, you do not need to have proof of yellow fever vaccination to visit Inhotim. However, to save yourself from disappointment, you might want to check their website or inquire directly regarding the status quo short before visiting.
Wanna know how I perceived Belo Horizonte, Brumadinho, and Inhotim the day I got there? Check out this lesson of my Class of Brazil series:
Ever heard of Inhotim? No? No wonder since this amazing gallery and botanic garden is hidden on the outskirts of a lost place called Brumadinho, located about one hour from Belo Horizonte.
Nevertheless, to visit Inhotim, one Friday, I hopped on a plane in Rio de Janeiro and flew to Belo Horizonte. There, I took God’s artistic creations – such as flowers and trees – are of genuine, pure beauty, indeed. But in combination with creations by earthly visual artists, they become just marvelous.
The NordArt is a very nice art event – of course, not to be compared to the documenta, let alone the Biennial in Venice. But yes, they show a great variety of international art and has been one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary art in Europe. So I like it.
Apart from the annual changing exhibitions, some of the works – especially the sculptures in the gardens – stay for longer…like this NICHTS-sign – by the way, nichts means nothing and is therefore exactly the opposite of what you actually get to see at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte.
What I actually love about the NordArt is the location: Büdelsdorf! Even for German-speaking people, this name is quirky and fun and sounds like someplace for rednecks in gumboots clomping over the fields checking if the potatoes are good to harvest yet.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Actually, Büdelsdorf – by the way, ‘Dorf’ means village, this already tells you a lot – is sort of a suburb of sort of a small town in Northern Germany, a bit over 100 km / 62 miles from Hamburg. If you happen to go to Denmark by train, you might have a whistle stop there – otherwise, I’m afraid that people who live more than five miles away have never heard of it.
Welcome to Büdelsdorf – home of international art….and international cuisine (note the ‘restaurant’ to the right)
So the fact that an art fair takes place on a regular basis at this suburb of a small town is quite hilarious. Of course, there is a story to it:
In 1827, the foundation of the iron foundry Carlshütte was the first industrial plant of the duchies Schleswig and Holstein; today the federal country of Schleswig-Holstein.
After the long trip out here and an extended visit, one can enjoy a snack or some homemade pastry at the cozy ‘Alte Meierei’, the Old Dairy.
As it was finally closed down in 1997, the huge premises with the foundries and the historic living and management quarters were acquired by Mr. Hans-Julius Ahlmann, an associate at the globally operating ACO group. He initiated the Kunstwerk – artwork – Carlshütte where now concerts, lectures, film screenings, theater plays, and, obviously, exhibitions are taking place.
Since 1999, every summer the NordArt takes place and became one of the largest European shows of contemporary art.
Casey McKee Irrational Exuberance
This artist has been a great discovery at this year’s NordArt: Casey McKee comes from Phoenix/Arizona, but is living and working in Berlin. I really like the impression of his photo-based paintings and hope to get to see more of his work.
Every year, there is an open call. 3,000 artists from 105 countries from all over the world applied for the NordArt 2018.
Another painter that impressed me quite a lot is German Petra Sabine Anders. A bit in the style and tradition of Lucian Freud, the characters she’s depicting do certainly not meet our ideal of beauty anymore, but their appearance seems to tell fascinating stories; Anders insinuates this also in her titles: The Dancer (left) and And in Greifswald He Played the Just (right)
The jury has chosen 200 artists that now have the chance to show their paintings, photographs, videos, installations, and sculptures at….Büdelsdorf; it doesn’t get old.
Now, this is totally bizarre: At first glance a normal collection of butterflies,….
….but as you take a closer look, you see that it’s all heavy military equipment such as submarines, helicopters, and tanks; upside down and mirrored.
Rotem Ritov, an artist from Israel, not only made these ‘critters’, she also classified and labeled them accordingly.
Rotem Ritov Monarch Migration
If you think, wait a minute, isn’t this year as special on?, you are absolutely right: The NordArt celebrates its 20th anniversary; and I personally hope that there are many more to come.
Gilles T. Lacombe Everything Must Go
Monsieur Lacombe always showed some pretty installations, but the one he’s presenting us this year might be the most disturbing one so far. I don’t know, somehow it’s the year of creepy over there in….Büdelsdorf. (Photo: ⓒNordArt2018. Michal Gabriel)
Finally something not that disturbing, however not shallow: Five gigantic pens by Kemal Tufan from Turkey. Pen With Books, Pen With Poem, Pen With Gasmasks, and Pen With Reading Glasses.
If you know what the last one is made of, please drop me an info.
Although Kemal Tufan has been another good discovery, it’s not really surprising. On my travels to Turkey, I’ve seen so much fresh and daring contemporary art that my expectations regarding Turkish artists got very high.
Update: Beginning of August 2018, the NordArt released a very informative and inspiring video on the making of this mega event.
The Country Focus
The NordArt isn’t just a random exhibition. They have a very elaborated and inspiring concept: Apart from the ‘regular’ show, every year, they put the focus on a particular country.
This year’s Country Focus is on the Czech Republic.
František Matoušek aka Francis de Nim Františka.
Painting his hyper-realistic portraits on torn denim gives them an unexpected appearance.
Michal Gabriel Eye To Eye
Michal Gabriel Birth of Venus (Photo: ⓒNordArt2018. Michal Gabriel)
However, Czech artists are widely introduced at the Kunstwerk Carlshütte, anyway. Besides the old factory buildings, there is a huge garden filled with truly outstanding sculptures and installations, and many of those are made by Czech sculptors.
Permanent exhibition of sculptures at the very spacious gardens: Jiří Štaněk Divan
Many of these masterpieces are at Büdelsdorf for good – although some ogres seem to shuffle them around a bit between summers.
In 2016, Liu Ruo Wang’s iconic work Original Sin 2011 – 2013 was displayed as one of the center pieces on the big lawn of the Carlshütte’s park.
In 2017, Ruo Wang’s ape-men were looking up into the sky at the bus stop in front of the Carlshütte’s main entrance. I wonder how they put these iron cast sculptures there – assuming that they did not walk across the street by themselves.
By the way, I really love to see some stuff from the previous year again along with all the new art they gather.
The Focus Artist
Besides the Country Focus, there also a Focus Artist – who by a pure incident, in 2018, happens to be a Czech sculptor; e. g. in 2017, the Country Focus was Denmark and the Focus Artist was Czech enfant terrible David Černý.
Anyway, this year’s Focus Artist is the sculptor Jan Koblasa who sadly passed away last year. The Kunstwerk Carlshütte honors this artist who was highly involved in the NordArt’s conceptualization, organization, and activities.
Jan Koblasa and his unique form of sculpture – raw and at the same time very tender – will be dearly missed.
Lying in state: Lenin, Mao, Hitler, Stalin.
Jan Koblasa: The Demons of the 20th Century
In the front La Traviata II, in the back Adam and Eve with the Snake
While at the special exhibition in Jan Koblasa’s honor only his wooden work is being shown, in the garden, there is a permanent iron cast exhibit called Wailing Wall
The Chinese Connection
Another recurring segment is the presentation of Chinese artists – organized for years in cooperation with the Chinese embassy and some Chinese culture institutions.
This year, however, the Chinese participants are presenting rather…quirky to creepy artwork – especially XIANG Jing’s sculptures are pretty disturbing.
It’s not because of the nudity, it’s the style that makes this arrangement eerie.
XIANG Jing Are A Hundred Playing You? Or Only One? (Series Naked Beyond Skin)
But also LIU Fei’s painting series Women & Guns is not particularly dainty (this one is No. 29).
Once more the macabre group – in front of an even more terrifying wallhanging by ZHANG Dali Man and Beast.
Yet another jolly bunch of ladies, depicted by LIU Fei Women & Guns No. 30
If you are interested in visiting this outstanding show this summer and need more information, you’ll get all the relevant info here.
The Cheap and Comfortable Daytrip
You get to Rendsburg by train from Hamburg in less than 90 minutes, from Berlin in about 3,5 hours (via Hamburg). From the train station, it’s 15 minutes walk to the Kunstwerk Carlshütte.
Here’s a special tip for you Germany-travellers: For about 25 Euro you can travel an entire day by train within every federal country; but you are only allowed to take the regional trains, not IC or ICE. The best part is: each further person pays only 4 Euro, up to 5 persons can travel on one regional day ticket. Due to its central position, Hamburg is automatically included in three tickets (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, and Lower Saxony (that includes also Bremen)). Büdelsdorf is in Schleswig-Holstein, and the day ticket for one person is 28 Euro.
Hard to believe that it’s been already one month ago that I’ve been to Venice on the occasion of the 57th Biennale. Time passes so fast. But it’s a good moment to look back on this marvelous and inspiring visit and show you my favorite works so you save time in case you join the final sprint: The Biennale is on till November 26!
I put together my very personal collection of the works that I liked the best. I’ve left out some of the pieces that I’ve already introduced during my daily Venice-posts “…a week in September” and although I’ve sorted the works by country, they are not necessarily from the designated country pavilion.
For instance France: At the Giardini’s French pavilion is an exhibition by Xavier Veilhan, but I liked french-born Kader Attia’s installation at the Arsenale much better so I included that one for France. When I like a certain national pavilion and then particularly liked another artist and piece from that country as well, I included both – like I did for instance with Albania.
It’s a good moment to present this international lineup, since it’s only a retrospective for me – you can still go, the Biennale doesn’t end before November 26, 2017.
Big advantage: prices for accommodation and many services and goods are much lower than in summer, but I still recommend to check in addition my post on how to get more for less on your trip to Venice.
Three blurry paintings by Leonard Qylafifrom the series Occurrence in Present Tense
Edi Rama 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’.
Eve Arizanamed her installation Murmuri (Mutter). Each of the clay bowl has its own ‘voice’.
Antigua and Barbuda
Frank Walter was not only a painter, he was also a poet and writer. To honor that I took a picture of his old typwriter in front of his naiv, very Caribbean paintings.
El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves (The man with the axe and other short situations) Oh, el hombre con la hacha is a mean little man – and it’s amazing how you can change the scenery by just looking at it from different angles. This work by Argentinian artist Liliana Porter is in my personal top ten; for its originality and its beauty.
A teeny tiny lady is fishing in a sea of…chiffon. Every single exhibit is made in such a ingenious fashion, every single one is a tender tale. These installations are like illustrations of life.
Hardworking little lady – sweeping the fiery red dust. (The figurine is maybe 1.5 inches tall)
The horse problem by Claudia Fontes at the Argentinian pavilion. Although it’s also meant to be poetic, it deems rather tacky – and it’s well beaten by Liliana Porter’s elaborated perspective and esthetics.
One of the many, many pieces referring to refugees coming ashore is the installation Vigil: using sequences from old Hollywood movies and documentary shots of refugees, Tracey Moffatt lets the film stars suspiciously observe the refugee’s arrival.
I already pointed out a couple of times how much I like Austrian enfant terrible Erwin Wurm; but to see his – admittedly iconic – One Minute Sculptures yet again…well….I enjoyed his “Drinking Sculptures” – and actually the entire exhibitions – on my art trip to the Ruhr much more.
It’s funny – Dirk Braeckman is a reversed Gerhard Richter: While at Richter exhibitions people get really, really close to check whether the painting is not a photograph, at this show people get really, really close to check whether the photos are not actually paintings.
Bolivia participated for the first time in the Venice Biennale and presents artists Jose Ballivian, Sol Mateo and Jannis Markopoulos. Maybe it’s because of the debut that the topic is very ambitious and serious thematizing the development and tension of Latin America in relation to the Northern countries.
Safet Zec: Exodus – scenes depicting different scenarios of refugee and the hardship of migration, painted in the narrative fashion of the old masters like e. g. Tintoretto or Veronese. Every single of these tableaus at the Chiesa de la Pietà tells you a story on the protagonists’ hardship and destiny.
Since the Canadian pavilion has to be renovated, anyway, Geoffrey Farmer was free to arrange his destructive yet fun – and literally refreshing – installation A way out of the mirror like a demolition party. Water fountains are exploding entraining everything around.
Bernardo Oyarzun – from the Mapuche indian tribe himself – is pointing in his installation Werken the oppression of Chile’s indigenous population. 1000 ceremonial masks, made by 40 Mapuche indians, are standing in the center surrounded by 6907 illuminated still existing Mapuche family names.
Guan Xiao‘s video David is ironic and hysterical. It sketches the sell out of national art symbols like the David statue from Florence – to be found on cups and towels and T-Shirts and degenerating to be piece of tacky decoration or a marketing scheme. Showing this film nowadays at the Biennale where everybody is running around consuming art, taking pictures without even looking at the works is a slap in everyone’s face; my cheek is burning, too.
Czech Republic and Slovakia
“Plavala husička po dunaji” – there was a goose swimming on the Danube river with her goslings in tow. Seeing Jana Želiská‘s installation, this old Czech children’s song came to mind – although hers are swans: Swan Song Now. And yes, that’s all that there is with this work, and Želiská was criticized for the banality of her installation.
The audience is invited to assemble, together with migrants participating in Ólafur Eliásson‘s project Green Light – An artistic workshop 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. Eliásson’s piggy bag, but will be donated to a good cause.
Especially at this year’s Biennale I realized what an adequate art venue churches are: the light, the sound, the atmosphere – all this puts the works into a special space. And Paul Benney, creator of somber paintings (he calls them night paintings), shows his impressive chiaroscuro paintings Speaking in Tongues in the murky Chiesa di San Gallo.
This Installation by Kader Attia 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.
Although the German entry by Anne Imhof even won this year’s Golden Lion prize, I cannot include her since unfortunately I didn’t get to see it. There was only one performance the day of my visit and as I got there it was already over. So I pick Fiete Stolte‘s copper feet on raw wood called Printed my Steps. I discovered Stolte only recently, but must say: way to go, Fiete (pun intended).
There were many really good works at the pavilion of Grenada – many beautifully Ocean related. But I picked Jason de Caires Taylor who created the first under water sculpture park off the West Coast of Grenada in 2006. Especially since this year Damian Hirst causes a sensation with his exhibition ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ – irritatingly similar to de Caires Taylor’s much older project that in addition was meant to raise awareness for the endangered oceans.
Sabrina Bertolelli, one of about a dozen artists exhibiting at the pavilion of Guatemala, ‘plants’ unique CONTEMPORARY-FLOWER…!, indeed.
Too bad it’s not possible to show the crazy, colorful, hysterical installation Songs for Disaster Relief by Samson Young. Installed in tacky sitting areas songs like “We are the World” or “Do They Know it’s Christmas” are blaring from tube TVs while lights are flashing in bright colors – it’s a zoo; and it’s great!
I guess Hungarian artists don’t have it easy – just like e. g. Hungarian journalists. So why not sticking with peace? It deems political yet doesn’t offend anybody – everyone likes peace, it’s safe. Peace on Earth by Gyula Várnai deems a bit haphazardly, yet I liked the rainbow made of these tacky socialist breast pins.
However, the art nouveau facade of the Hungarian pavilion is at least as nice as the art shown inside.
Gal Weinstein used rather unusual materials like mildew, stale coffee and sugar to decorate the pavilion of Israel. It’s said that the installation Sun Stands Still is a critique of civilization – I don’t know, I just found it unusual and interesting how something usually considered ugly all of a sudden becomes beautiful and decorative.
Jesus industries – from creation to decay: It’s huge, it’s creepy, it’s art; it’s Imitazione di Cristo by Roberto Cuoghi
Photographer Joana Choumali lets people migrate from one place to another by cutting and pasting. This way she points out in a very touching way how these individuals leave gaps in the original spots and look out of place in the new one. A very emphatic way of sketching the problem and a very interesting artistic translation.
Spoiler Alert: Before entering the Japanese pavilion to see Takahiro Iwasaki‘s installation Turned Upside Down, It’s A Forest, make sure to climb the ladder underneath and stick your head in the hole. I don’t tell you more.
Cody Choi decorated the Korean pavilion’s facade so you can’t miss it – and cannot avoid it, either. His Venetian Rhapsody – The Power of Bluff is as flashy as can be.
The absurdity continues inside with Lee Wan‘s work For a Better Tomorrow amidst Proper Time – Though the Dreams Revolve with the Moon
Petrit Halilaj‘s wallpaper installation Abetare made of old school books also made it from the Biennale to the exhibition Art and Alphabet in Hamburg.
The motives are downright crazy and that they are lustrous woodcarvings makes the whole appearance even more wacky. Thank you, Mikelis Fišers, for your exhibition What can go wrong, based on tin foil hat theories. We have for instance Giant Grasshoppers Massacre Tourists by the Pyramids of Giza…
…or The Last Yeties Protest Against CO Emmission by the Great Wall of China
Of course it’s daring and a feminist act when Lebanese artist Huguette Caland paints nudity and public display of affection on traditional Arabic clothing.
All sculptures of Wong Cheng Pou‘sA Bonsai of my Dreamare very tender and poetic. The one where two guys actually carry the one in the middle through the wall is my favorite.
For his installation The Life in the Folds, Mexican Carlos Amorales developed his own alphabet (interestingly the clay letters are pipes) and arranges the letters on big white tables to a story of immigrants; in the video screened in the back the letters come to life and tell a refugee story, too.
Michel Blazy recycles. And by recycling he creates art. In Venice he planted a Foret de Balais, a broom forest.
A very artistic alternative to swords to ploughshares: just turn them into graceful cranes like Chimeddorj Shagdarjav did: I’m bird – a truly inspiring installation.
When it isn’t about migration and refugees, it often is on colonisation (also some sort of migration, though) and oppression of native culture, customs and traditions just like in Lisa Reihana‘s video installation Emissaries.
A banner denouncing the leak of progress referring to ‘mañana’ was made by Juan Javier Salazar, calling it sarcastically Land of Tomorrow. Salazar sadly died last year at the age of 61.
Well, to be honest, the exhibit is not that great, but anything that puts Janusz Korczak and his wonderful and sacrificing work for children into focus deserves at least to be mentioned. Sharon Lockhart arranged her installation around the newspaper by and for children called Little Review initiated by this great man.
They remind me of the first epic films from the twenties – the deployment of the masses, the esthetics of the totalitarian, the scary play of lights and shadows, Grisha Bruskin arranged his scenes in an extremely theatric fashion.
It’s certainly the interaction between the abandoned, ruinous hall and the screening of a door obviously moved by the breeze filmed by Vadim Fiškin. Together this creates an atmosphere of slow, poetic decay. Scotland
In Rachel Maclean‘s super fun movie Spite Your Face Pinocchio is trapped in a world of pretentiousness and consumption.
On the facade is still written ‘Yugoslavia’ and inside three artists are showing their work at the Serbian pavilion. I’ve picked two extremes: Dragan Zdravkovic‘s ironic, hilarious self-staging…
…and Vladislav Šcepanovic‘s upsetting compositions that he calls ‘Political Pop Art’, depicting – in the fashion of traditional pop art – logos and slogans on one hand, on the other horrific scenes from the world’s trouble spots.
With the sizable ship Zai Kuning focuses on the Malay ethnicity: the orang laut, water people, living on and of the water – nowadays of course endangered by pollution and tourism. Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge reminds of the former emperor Hyang.
Also dealing with the topic of migration, Candice Breitz‘ installation is one of the most touching works: Hollywood stars Julienne Moore and Alec Baldwin are sitting in front of a camera telling atrocious stories of their escape, the way across deserts and waters. In the adjacent room you can see the real narrators on screens. Puzzling effect, that the actors’ tales touch you partly more.
Called after his work Women of Venice that he showed in 1956 at the French pavilion, the Swiss pavilion is all about Giacometti: Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler are showing simultaneously two films dealing with Giocometti’s love affair with American artist Flora Mayo – which is controversial given the fact that Giacometti denied all his life to participate in the Biennale at the Swiss pavilion and now there is shown this work of high intimacy.
Tehching Hsieh is famous for extreme long term performances. This is a video on his project One Year Performance 1980-1981 (Time Clock Piece): Over one year he hourly clocked in and took a picture. Hourly. Day and night. Looking back at his project he stated that “wasting time is my concept of life (…) Living is nothing but consuming time until you die.”
I love art that invites me to participate. Whereby I still wonder what happened to me participating in Adrian Piper’s project The probable trust registry from 2015 – never heard from again. Anyway, at the Tunisian pavilion you had to answer a couple of questions and were then supplied with a Universal Passport. The Absence of Paths – a beautiful idea – and we Germans are lucky to have such a universal passport, and it’s not only an art project…
One of the most surprising exhibitions was Synesthesia by a team of Turkish designers. Neither the design exhibition at the Palazzo Michiele nor this Turkish section are officially part of the Biennale, but the works by the team TRUE-TREU – exclusively dealing with immigration and refugees – are so unique that a place in this list is well deserved. A Life Vest? by Argun Dağçınar is the most flashy piece.
Since 1977, the Skulptur Projekte takes place only every ten years – and coincides this year with the documenta, the Biennale and many more. This year, there’s an art burst going on!
In 2017 the Skulptur Projekte teams up for the first time with Marl, a town with about 80,000 inhabitants, located in North Rhine Westphalia. A town that was thrown together from a handful of villages without something like a city center; Marl is practically Germany’s Los Angeles (according to malicious tongue Dorothy Parker “Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city”).
No, kidding aside, actually Marl takes the cake for being the most charmless city on planet blue.
Train station Marl – escape route in both directions.
But – there are the sculptures! Marl possesses an unusually vast amount of high class sculptures, many stemming from the much-noticed exhibitions “Stadt und Skulptur” (City and Sculpture) in 1970 and 1972. There are the big names such as Jean Arp, Richard Serra, August Rodin, and the inevitable Henry Moore, but there are also objects by less known artists that are by no means less ingenious.
The sculptures are found around the – artificially excavated – lake and the horrible concrete town hall. However, the major part is to be found on the terrain of the old
graveyard. Sometimes a close look is needed to distinguish the sculptures from the remaining grave stones; you know how good art is: full of surprises.
They offer an excellent interactive map so you don’t miss any of the goodies.
So since this year Münster is collaborating with Marl, under the title “The Hot Wire” six Sculptures are added to their permanent treasure.
Right in front of the horribly concrete town hall, there is the hollow marble block called “Momentary Monument 2017” by Lara Favaretto which should be used as a piggy bank (at the end of the exhibition the block will be shattered and the money will of course be donated).
There is the…well, it doesn’t qualify as an inert ‘sculpture’ since it’s two riders on living horses, a white one and a black one, going in opposite directions. The…whatever you might call it…is by the late Reiner Ruthenbeck and called “Begegnung schwarz/weiß. Re-enactment” (Encounter black/white. Re-enactment).
It was raining on Sunday, so no horsies for me.
The parking lot is decorated with Thomas Schütte‘s “Melonensäule” (Melon Column) and a “Fahrradständermonument” (Cycle Rack Monument) by Richard Artschwager. Both objects are made (partly) from concrete and hence match the horrible concrete town hall.
In the middle of all these nice things, on the ground floor of the horrible concrete town hall, there is the Sculpture Museum “Glaskasten” that actually is – like its name suggests – a glass box. They have a very interesting permanent collection and amazing temporary exhibits. Complementing the brouhaha about the Skulptur Projekte 2017, they show some witty objects on loan from the LWL Kunsthalle in Münster.
And in the basement there is a collection of many, many prototypes of sculptures that were submitted for the Skulptur Projekte in the past and present. A superb overview.
Enthralling overview of sculpture prototypes in the basement of the Skulptur Museum Glaskasten.
During the event, that started on June 10 and goes on till October 1, there is a special shuttle bus between the two
cities, but it’s a very limited service: exclusively on Sundays,
starting at Münster at 10 a.m. and going back from Marl at 2 p.m., which
gives you three hours in Marl; that’s a lot. I took the train.
Cosima von Bonin and Tom Burr: “Benz Bonin Burr”
Watch out, Henry Moore! The young generation of wild and free artists might pack your sculpture in the big black wooden crate and move it away in no time.
I guess in Münster they had to place some of the sculpture just where there was space – there is no real golden thread guiding you, and even with the map they sell for 3 € finding certain pieces is not granted: they just sprinkled the map with red dots. You have to read the address and description on the map’s back to get a good hint where to search. In general larger groups of people indicate the position of an art object. But beware, I also accidentally joined a group buying a ticket for a car park…
Here is just a random overview of the art works I liked the best – and I spare you this wretched ‘The 5 best blablabla not to be missed’ I hate on blogs. It’s five randomly picked pieces I liked, listed in no particular order. Period.
Aram Bartholl: “3V”
Bartholl’s three chandeliers are not only pretty, they are also very clever and sustainable: a thermoelectric device transforms fire from tee candles in electricity, making the LEDs shine. Go to his Website, just because it’s so cool.
Another crucial sisterly advice: Rent a bike! Besides being the ‘city of
bikes’, anyway – Münster has about 300,000 inhabitants and 500,000 bicycles – on the occasion of the Skulptur Projekte there are
additional bike rentals – one is just next to the main venue, the LWL Kunstmuseum. I did everything walking and it was a drag and I missed all the cool stuff outside of the town center. So when in
Münster, do as the Münsterians do – get a bike.
They did it walking, too. Guided tours can be booked over the project’s website. Since they are free, people seem to be booking like there’s no tomorrow, and then the tours start half empty (what doesn’t gall only the visitors who didn’t get a ticket, but also the organizers).
Cheap and comfortable day tripping
a special tip for you Germany-travellers: For about 25 Euro you can
travel an entire day by train within every federal country; but you are
only allowed to take the regional trains, not IC or ICE. The best part
is: each further person pays only 4 Euro, up to 5 persons can travel on
one regional day ticket. Münster and Marl are both in North Rhine Westphalia.
On the road again – last weekend to Osnabrück, Münster, and Marl. Saturday started with the Çanakkale Art Walk in Osnabrück.
Halil Altındere’s “Köfte Airlines”-Billboard stands in front of the Villa Schikkel and was introduced to the public at the Berlin Biennal in 2016 – and reflects of course on the handling of the refugee crises.
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