Most visitors to Venice stay and explore only the Centro Storico, thehistoric center. It is divided into six districts called Sestieri. Although they seem to form one large island, there is a total of 120 islands in the lagoon. However, only 11 are permanently inhabited.
Of those islands, Murano is the third largest one – after the Centro Storico and the Lido. It actually consists of seven small islands divided by eight channels and connected by bridges.
when to go, where to stay, what to eat, and much more
Visiting Venice can be pretty pricey. You find yourself at one of the world’s most unique places – and it comes with a price tag. However, if you follow my simple hacks, visiting Venice on a budget is easy and still very enjoyable.
I’ve been coming to Venice for years – at least every other year to visit the Biennale di Arte. Consequently, I’m not going there for these overpriced touristy places and services. I enjoy Venice on a budget – and believe me, I enjoy it to the max.
Therefore, in this post, I’m sharing my best tips on when to go, where to stay, what to eat, and more.
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.
So it’s Sunday, the last day of my wonderful week – mainly – in Venice. Over the past few days I’ve mainly posted on all the art that I’ve seen and left most of the touristy stuff aside.
But after I’ve been coming here for a while now, today – as a little souvenir – I’ll share some recommendations and little tips with you.
I will not tell you that there is a Saint Mark’s Square to be visited, the campanile to be climbed and many canals to be rowed. All this and much more will be written in every guide book, website, or even the smallest brochure.
I’ll make you savvy and show you how to get more for less.
Getting to Venice
If you are already in Italy, you’ll probably get to Venice by train. I find that trenitalia offers a really good service at reasonable prices. Maybe it’s because of that that trains tend to be very full, especially the regional ones. The only recommendation I’d like to give you here is to travel as light as you can to be more comfortable.
Mind you there are two train stations in Venice: Mestre on the main land and Santa Lucia at the historic center. Trains between these two stations are going very often, so if you accidently get off at Mestre, it’s no biggy, the next train will be there in a couple of minutes.
If you chose to find an accommodation at Mestre, and there are a couple of reasons why this is a smart move, you can get by (regional) train to Santa Lucia in about ten minutes, and the ticket costs 1,25 €uro.
Often it’s better to get there by bus, though, since not every B&B or hotel is close to the trainstation. We’ll get to that later.
If you fly into Venice, you’ll land at Venezia Marco Polo airport. From there you have to options to get to the historic center – either by bus to the bus station Piazzale Roma or – and that’s a great way if you’re accommodation is at the historic center – by the Alilaguna boat. Especially on a sunny day it’s just dreamy and actually the first beautiful sight of your beautiful vacation – crossing the lagoon by boat with the view of this unbelievable place.
Alilaguna stops at various stations around the island and then goes to the Lido. So it’s recommendable to check where you’re staying and get off near that spot.
Unusual arrival at an unusual city.
And if you’re not staying at the historic center? Then you can still go by boat, but in this case I recommend you to get off at the Cruise Terminal (blue line) and cross the ponte della Costituzione to the train station Santa Lucia where you can leave your luggage and start exploring the city right away.
Especially during the summer months the storage is often full so you have to either wait or chose another ‘consigne bagagli’: there are stores willing to store your stuff for a little fee and there even are various locker rooms at different spots in the center. But be aware that these places close much earlier than the one at the station.
Of course you can also go back to the airport the same way, but mind you the space on the boat is limited and if it’s full, it’s full. After a couple of days in Venice I can comfortably go back to the airport by bus and take no risk.
If your accommodation is not at the historic center and you do not want to leave your luggage but go there right away, taking the bus from the airport might be a better option for you: There’s an airport shuttle going straight to Mestre and you’ll reach every other spot from there.
Prices for accommodations are much higher from March till September. In November, I paid a fraction of the high season’s price. And of course during the ‘unattractive’ Winter months the city is much emptier than in Summer – but it’s never ’empty’. I personally experienced the least amount of tourists end of February after the carnival – but then there also might be acqua alta, which means you have to walk on wooden planks which is fun only for about ten minutes, and the city is pretty grey. But when you’re ready to experience the melancholic side of Venice in a relatively empty city at unbeatable prices, end of February does the trick.
This view is exclusively reserved for guest who stay at the historic center; but it also has its price.
If you are coming during high season, you still have the option to stay out of the historic center on the Venetian main land like the city of Mestre or even farther away like Quarto d’Altino.
Italy has a extended and reliable system of public transport so it will be quite easy commuting into the historic center and back, I’ve done it a couple of times myself.
The closest and best accessible place would be Mestre. You can get to Venice Santa Lucia from there by train for €uro 1,25. But there are also many busses going every couple of minutes for € 1,40, which might be even faster and more comfortable since you’ll probably stay in a residential area.
When in Venice, do like the Venetians do: Commuting in full busses.
Mestre is less expensive, but it’s not cheap since the trick staying ten minutes away from Venice is not so very genius, hence hosts in Mestre know what they can ask from you.
You can also go farther away e. g. to Quarto d’Altino, a charmless place less than half an hour by train from Santa Lucia. Surprisingly there are a couple of hotels like the Holiday Inn Express in that area. Anyway, the trains to and from Venice go every 30 minutes and one trip costs €uro 3,40. It’s not a great option, but it’s an option just the same (I did it twice on really short stays. Commuting all the way out there for a longer time might be unnerving.)
You’ll find accommodations in the urban fringe on the usual hotel sites and privately run B&Bs on www.bedandbreakfast.it.
Like I said, I will not tell you that there is the Doge’s palace and the Rialto bridge to be visited.
But I tell you that you can visit sights on a cheaper price and without waiting in line by buying e. g. the Museum Pass that grants you free entrance to the 11 most important state museums and palazzi in Venice. The best way to get it is ordering it online, so even there you save time.
Hope this article helps you being on top of things in Venice.
On my first trip to Venice I did the whole show with taking the Vaporetto (ferry-bus) and all that jazz. Since you’re paying €uro 7,50 for a single ticket, you might understand that it lost it’s charme quite quickly and I’m walking – especially since taking the Vaporetto is another great opportunity spending your vacation waiting and queuing. But if you want to take the Vaporetto, and I perfectly understand that you do, you might not want to buy single tickets but day passes that cost ‘only’ 20 €uro for 24 hours, 30 €uro for 48 hours, 40 €uro for 72 hours, and 60 €uro for a week (which is a really good price, very similar to what you pay in big cities for day passes for ordinary public transport).
The whole somewhat confusing price policy of ACTV, the local transport company, is to find on their website.
Row row row the boat…
You can also combine your activities and the travels on one tourist card, the Venezia Unica City Pass, where you add online activities and the a. m. ACTV-passe and then print it out before you arrive.
Young people between 6 and 29 can get a Rolling Venice Card that grants them reduced entrance fees and cheaper Vaporetto tickets and more (kids under 6 years of age don’t have to pay, anyway).
So now it’s up to you to do your math – good luck!
Like in most other touristy cities there’s a free walking tour in Venice, too.
Although it’s very touristy, indeed, on a sunny day an organized trip to the other Islands like Murano with its glass artisans, the fishing village of Burano with its lace industries and the great church houses of Torcello is just beautiful.
Eating and Drinking
You might have noticed by now that I am very passionate about art – but also about churches and temples, streets and squares. Although I like cooking and love food, when travelling I consider it a waste of time – unless it’s a highly authentic or in some way special place.
So this sitting around at a restaurant for an hour just to stuff face to me is a waste of time. And in Italy they are especially chilled about serving, here you learn where the word ‘waiter’ must stem from: you wait for him to bring the menu, you wait for him to take your order for drinks, you wait for him to come back with your drinks, you wait for him to take your order for food – and it goes on and on till you wait for him to finally take your money. I can’t stand it.
Fortunately Italy is street and fast food heaven. I’m not talking burgers’n’fries here, I’m talking juicy pizza, fat-dripping focaccia or sandwiches with prosciutto di Parma; everything that’s guaranteed vitamin free and rich in carbohydrates. So having a piece of heaven for lunch while pacing to the next museum and in the evening an epic aperitivo and I call it a happy foodie day.
Here are the top places in Venice for my kind of diet:
It’s hard to find bad pizza in Italy, and many of the stands that sell a slice of pizza for about 2,50 to 3 €uro will be even excellent. The best one in Venice is definitely Rizzo on strada nova. Their pizza comes in long stripes and is covered with the finest toppings like gorgonzola and nuts, quattro formaggi whereby the formaggi are like triple of the dough, all sorts of prosciutto and veggies – it’s fantastic. They also sell other treats like tarts and sandwiches and at the opposite counter a variety of cakes and pies. Everybody finds something he falls for at Rizzo.
Do you know “Tramezzini”? They are triangles of soggy, unroasted toast, but that doesn’t matter since the bread is only the wrapper of the delicious fillings. The fillings are not a thin layer like on a sandwich, not, they are a big heap of of the finest Italian delicacies: prosciutto, egg, gamberi (shrimps), carciofi (artichokes), radicchio, you name it. To help the shredded stuff holding together, they are stirred with just the right amount of mayonnaise to a heavenly mixture and then bedded between two slices of toast. It’s good that the toast is mushy because it makes room for the filling.
One lonely tramezzino. They are called tramezzini – plural! – since you cannot limit yourself to just one:
Look at this rich, juicy filling of crabmeat!
I limit myself to three pieces in one meal, but let me tell you, the choice is a toughie.
The juiciest tramezzini are waiting for you at
Bar alla Toletta
Via Dorsoduro 1191
Phone: +39 – 41 – 520 01 96
Bar alla Toletta = Tramezzini-Heaven
I don’t really get the aperitivo concept, but I still love it. Why I don’t get it? Because an aperitiv is soppused to tickle your fancy for a complete meal. It Italy the aperitivo is a complete meal – and in comparison darn cheap: at the non over touristy places you pay between €uro 5 and 8 for an aperitivo that includes a glass of something like a Spritz and a small buffet with all sorts of niblets. Sometimes it’s only bruschetta, but sometimes it’s really fancy stuff like tomatoes with crab stuffing or some nice pasta.
A light aperitivo-buffet.
The nicest aperitivo place in Venice is Taverna al Remer. You can either sit in their rustic restaurant or you take your booze and snack outside, sit at the canal and enjoy life.
Another really nice place – although located very exposed on the strada nova – is the Cantina Vecia Carbonera right at the corner of the bridge over Rio Terà de la Maddalena.
Finest snacks at the Cantina Vecia Carbonera: 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 – and a glass of Spritz.
Cantina Vecia Carbonera
30121 Venice Phone: + 39 – 41 – 71 03 76
So you insist on having a seated meal? Okay, there are some good options at Venice that are not a complete rip off.
Trattoria dalla Marisa
Fondamenta San Giobbe
Phone: + 39 – 41 -72 02 11
When travelling I like to complete my day by listening to local music and reading a good novel that takes place in the surroundings – and sometimes even makes things that I’ve seen during the day much clearer.
Coffee break with Venetian news on the side.
In the post about my weekend in Milan I recommended you to get in the mood with the help of Lucio Dalla’s poetic music. For Venice there is of course Ms Donna Leon and her commissario Brunetti leading you to even very hidden spots of the city – he is working on his 26th case by now!
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.
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” – 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
(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 Mochileros (back)
Se Yoon Park Light Darkness and the Tree (front)
(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…
Two shimmering ‘paintings’
From close you can see that the pattern consists of staples with torn pieces of paper underneath.
(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 Objects of Desire
Man, a bag like this would save you so much!
(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!
Three objects – nice looking from far….
….amazing from close.
An object like this spares the museum a “Please do not sit” sign.
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.
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
– 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Tribeca
Dustin Yellin Plexit
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
(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.
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!
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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.
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
(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 was not only a painter, he was also a poet and writer.
Paintings in a raw, very Afro-Caribbean style.
Republic of San Marino Pavilion
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.
Fu Yuxiang: Migrant Aliens
I expected friends, instead I was introduced to some extra-terrestrial Adams family.
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.
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
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:
Damien Hirst: Mermaid (planned since 2007)
Damien Hirst: Mermaid under water
Jason de Caires Taylor – created the first under water sculpture park off the West Coast of Grenada in 2006
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
(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!
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!
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.
When doves…well, not cry.
That’s the extra treat in Venice: Even if the exhibition doesn’t blow you away, the venue and the views do for sure!
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: 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….
In a pitch dark kitchen women scream in pots and bowls – the only lights around.
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….
Self-portrait of the two fantastic artists. You go, girls!
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.
One rule the artist have to stick to: Space is limited to 10 x 12 cm
(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.
Very compelling exhibition (The artist’s self-portrait on the right)
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!
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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.
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.
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:
(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’s little workshop. There weren’t too many elves there today.
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’.
Not only does he run an whole country, no, Edi also finds time to draw beautiful designs on an entire wall.
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.
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.
(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’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 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.
To know Jems Koko Bi means to know his boat installations.
(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.
Cut out on the left, pasted in the right – and emphasized the image with embroidery.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Untitled – Kananginak and his Wife Shooyoo in their Home.
Lovely pencil drawings by Mr. Pootoogook who is an Inuit.
V – Pavilion of Traditions
(born 1976 in Christchurch/New Zealand)
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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
Phone: + 39 – 41 – 71 03 76
Did I inspire you? Planning on going to Venice?
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