United Colors of Biennale – hard to believe that it’s been already one month ago that I’ve been to Venice on the occasion of the 57th Biennial.
Time passes so fast.
One of John Waters‘ three boards why studying art.
But it’s a good moment to look back on this marvelous and inspiring visit and show you my favorite works.
Hence, I put together my very personal collection of the works that I liked the best. 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 – as I did for instance with Albania.
In total, I’ve chosen 50 works. To make it more convenient for you, you can get to every country by clicking on the name in the following list:
Three blurry paintings by from the series Leonard Qylafi Occurrence in Present Tense
has been Albania’s prime minister since 2013 and besides being an artist, he’s also a writer and used to be a basketball player. I live in a country where the chancellor used to be a physicist; that’s only hot on ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Edi Rama
named her installation Eve Ariza (Mutter). Each of the clay bowls has its own ‘voice’. Murmuri
A ntigua and Barbuda
was not only a painter, but he was also a poet and writer. To honor that I took a picture of his old typewriter in front of his naive, very Caribbean paintings. Frank Walter
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 El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves (The man with the ax and other short situations) is in my personal top ten; for its originality and its beauty. Liliana Porter
A teeny tiny lady is fishing in a sea of…chiffon. Every single exhibit is made in such an 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)
by The horse problem 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. Claudia Fontes
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, lets the film stars suspiciously observe the refugee’s arrival. Tracey Moffatt
I already pointed out a couple of times how much I like Austrian enfant terrible ; but to see his – admittedly iconic – One Minute Sculptures yet again…well….I enjoyed his “Drinking Sculptures” – and actually the entire exhibitions – on Erwin Wurm my art trip to the Ruhr much more.
It’s funny – 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. Dirk Braeckman
Bolivia participated for the first time in the Venice Biennale and presents artists , Jose Ballivian and Sol Mateo . 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. Jannis Markopoulos
: Safet Zec – 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. Exodus
Since the Canadian pavilion has to be renovated, anyway, Geoffrey Farmer was free to arrange his destructive yet fun – and literally refreshing – installation
a demolition party. Water fountains are exploding entraining everything around. A way out of the mirror-like
Bernardo Oyarzun – from the Mapuche Indian tribe himself – is pointing in his installation 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. Werken
‘s video Guan Xiao 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 a 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. David
C zech Republic and Slovakia
“Plavala husička po dunaji” – there was a goose swimming on the Danube river with her goslings in tow. Seeing ‘s installation, this old Czech children’s song came to mind – although hers are swans: Jana Želiská 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 ‘s project Ólafur Eliásson lamps from wood, recycled yogurt 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. Green Light – An artistic workshop
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 , creator of somber paintings (he calls them night paintings), shows his impressive chiaroscuro paintings Paul Benney in the murky Chiesa di San Gallo. Speaking in Tongues
In this work, the voices of female Arabic singers bring sand to vibration under glass globes. And it actually works only with the voices, the sand does not vibrate when there are instruments. Absolutely fascinating! And a clear feminist message, too.
Although the German entry by Anne Imhof even won 2017’s Golden Lion prize, I cannot include her since unfortunately I didn’t get to see it. There was only one performance on 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 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. Jason de Caires Taylor
, one of about a dozen artists exhibiting at the pavilion of Guatemala, ‘plants’ unique Sabrina Bertolelli , indeed. CONTEMPORARY-FLOWER…!
Too bad it’s not possible to show the crazy, colorful, hysterical installation by Songs for Disaster Relief . 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! Samson Young
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. by Peace on Earth deems a bit haphazardly, yet I liked the rainbow made of these tacky socialist breast pins. Gyula Várnai
However, the art nouveau facade of the Hungarian pavilion is at least as nice as the art shown inside.
used rather unusual materials like mildew, stale coffee, and sugar to decorate the pavilion of Israel. It’s said that the installation Gal Weinstein 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. Sun Stands Still
Jesus industries – from creation to decay: It’s huge, it’s creepy, it’s art; it’s by Imitazione di Cristo Roberto Cuoghi
I vory Coast
Photographer 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. Joana Choumali
Spoiler Alert: Before entering the Japanese pavilion to see ‘s installation Takahiro Iwasaki , make sure to climb the ladder underneath and stick your head in the hole. I don’t tell you more. Turned Upside Down, It’s A Forest
decorated the Korean pavilion’s facade so you can’t miss it – and cannot avoid it, either. His Cody Choi is as flashy as can be. Venetian Rhapsody – The Power of Bluff
The absurdity continues inside with ‘s work Lee Wan amidst For a Better Tomorrow Proper Time – Though the Dreams Revolve with the Moon
‘s wallpaper installation Petrit Halilaj made of old school books also made it from the Biennale to the exhibition Abetare Art and Alphabet in Hamburg.
The motives are downright crazy and that they are lustrous woodcarvings makes the whole appearance even wackier. Thank you, , for your exhibition Mikelis Fišers , based on tin foil hat theories. What can go wrong 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 paints nudity and public display of affection on traditional Arabic clothing. Huguette Caland
All sculptures of ‘s Wong Cheng Pou are very tender and poetic. The one where two guys actually carry the one in the middle through the wall is my favorite. A Bonsai of My Dream
For his installation , Mexican The Life in the Folds 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. Carlos Amorales
Michel Blazy recycles. And by recycling he creates art. In Venice, he planted a , a broom forest. Foret de Balais
A very artistic alternative to swords to plowshares: just turn them into graceful cranes like did: Chimeddorj Shagdarjav – a truly inspiring installation. I’m bird
N ew Zealand
When it isn’t about migration and refugees, it often is on colonization (also some sort of migration, though) and oppression of native culture, customs, and traditions just like in L ‘s video installation isa Reihana . Emissaries
A banner denouncing the leak of progress referring to ‘mañana’ was made by r, calling it sarcastically Juan Javier Salaza . Salazar sadly died last year at the age of 61. Land of Tomorrow
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. arranged her installation around the newspaper by and for children called Sharon Lockhart initiated by this great man. Little Review
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, arranged his scenes in an extremely theatric fashion. Grisha Bruskin
It’s certainly the interaction between the abandoned, ruinous hall and the screening of a door obviously moved by the breeze filmed by . Together this creates an atmosphere of slow, poetic decay. Vadim Fiškin
In ‘s super fun movie Rachel Maclean Pinocchio is trapped in a world of pretentiousness and consumption. Spite Your Face
On the facade is still written ‘Yugoslavia’ and inside three artists are showing their work at the Serbian pavilion. I’ve picked two extremes: ‘s ironic, hilarious self-staging… Dragan Zdravkovic
…and ‘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. Vladislav Šcepanovic
With the sizable ship focuses on the Malay ethnicity: the orang laut, water people, living on and of the water – nowadays of course endangered by pollution and tourism. Zai Kuning reminds of the former emperor Hyang. Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge
S outh Africa
Also dealing with the topic of migration, ‘ 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. A puzzling effect, that the actors’ tales touch you partly more. Candice Breitz
Called after his work Women of Venice that he showed in 1956 at the French pavilion, the Swiss pavilion is all about Giacometti: 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. Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler
Tehching Hsieh – One Year Performance 1980 – 1981 (Time Clock Piece) from FACT on Vimeo .
is famous for his extremely long term performances. This is a video on his project Tehching Hsieh . 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.” One Year Performance 1980-1981 (Time Clock Piece)
I love art that invites me to participate, indeed. Whereby I still wonder what happened to me participating in Adrian Piper’s project from 2015 – never heard from them again. The probable trust registry Anyway, at the Tunisian pavilion, you had to answer a couple of questions and were then supplied with a Universal Passport. – a beautiful idea – and we Germans are lucky to have such a universal passport, and, obviously, it’s not just an art project… The Absence of Paths
As a matter of fact, one of the most surprising exhibitions was by a team of Turkish designers. Albeit, neither the design exhibition at the Palazzo Michiele nor this Turkish section is officially part of the Biennale, but the works by the team Synesthesia – exclusively dealing with immigration and refugees – are so unique that a place in this list is well deserved. TRUE-TREU by A Life Vest? is the most flashy piece. Argun Dağçınar
Shhh, : At the ‘Pavilion of Artists and Books’ the bi-national couple from the Caucasus the artist is asleep installed a…sleeping artist. Yelena Vorobyeva and Viktor Vorobyev
U nited States of America
Art that speaks for itself: Shown at the ‘Pavilion of Colors’ – what could be more iconic than ‘ Sheila Hicks ?! Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands
So these were some of the highlights of the 57. Biennial that took place in Venice in 2017.
In case you need some good insider tips for your Biennale-visit, make sure to check my post . How to Visit the Biennale di Arte in Venice
Also, make sure to get my best tips on how to visit Venice on a budget here.
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