Tuesday, May 7, 2019

7 Glimpses from the Opening Vernissage Day of the 58th Venice International Art Biennale, Today

The General Director of this edition of the Biennale, Ralph Rugoff (in blue jacket), discusses an installation by Chinese artist Nabuqi as its protagonist, a spotted cow, approaches on its rails

I spent most of this first day of the Vernissage walking among the works of the 79 artists selected by this Biennale's General Director, Ralph Rugoff, the director of London's Hayword Gallery. All 79 are presented in both the Central Pavilion of the Giardinni and the long long exhibition space of the Arsenale. I'm hoping to get to the national pavilions tomorrow.

I haven't the time to say much more right now than if you like painting and sculpture/installations then this appears to be the Biennale you've been waiting for. There is a lot of it in the spaces curated by Mr Rugoff.

Some of these works, like the paintings and screen prints of Njideka Akunyili Crosby (whose work is also now on display at the Victoria Miro Gallery in Venice, a short distance from La Fenice), I really liked. Some of the rest gave me a new appreciation for video art, and an impatience to get to another instance of it in the show. And this perhaps also explains why one of the pieces I was most struck by today was the sound piece "The Ground" by the young Lebanese-born artist Tarek Atoui, well into the long walk that is the Arsenale segment of the exhibition.

But lacking time, I'll post some more images from today below, with not much more than their titles.

The Vernissage is the time for major artists, and curators, to give interviews--a lot of them  

As the large robot of the work "Can't Help Myself," by the Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, loudly and violently went about trying to squeegee up the red liquid that continuously oozed from itself within its windowed cell I found myself reminded of the psychotic killer robot from the old and justly forgotten film Robocop II, as well as of a mechanized slaughterhouse. Alas, according to the placard posted beside the work, I was supposed to be thinking about the "elusiveness of art, its defiant refusal to be pinned down and fixed in one place" (except, obviously, on such explanatory exhibition placards). 

"The Mighty-Mighty Lines," by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye 

Sculptures in glass by Andra Ursuta

Detail from the sound work "The Ground," by Tarek Atoui

The virtual reality work "Endodrome", by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster

With four days until the Biennale opens to the public there were still a few details to be worked out in some pieces today, such as this one by the collective Slavs and Tatars


  1. Oh dear, looks as if it's not better than the last one! Although I quite like the Lorenzo Quinn idea at the Arsenale, more than his forearms emerging to grasp Ca' Segrado. last time? Didn't know the chap organising it was the Director of the Hayward..... Thanks for your images and thoughts, yet again.

  2. Having spent more time in the Arsenale exhibition and in a few of the national pavilions there, I think there are a lot of interesting works in that location, Ella. I enjoyed the exhibition in the Central Pavilion much less, though it is composed of works by the same 79 artists displayed in the Arsenale. But I spent much less time there, and that space is, I think, a challenge for any curator to handle. I think Okwui Enwezo (who passed away in March at the age of 55) made the best use of it in 2015 that I've seen, centering it around a performance space designed by the great architect David Adjaye. This edition, the same architect designed Ghana's first ever pavilion, and it doesn't disappoint, either in its look or its works on display.