From 13 May to 26 November, a dense programme has been scheduled at Venice for the 57th Biennale. From Xavier Veilhan’s “Merzbau musical” to Mark Bradford’s social project, we take a little look at the openings not to miss.
This year, the Venice Biennale is being steered by a Frenchwoman, Christine Macel, curator of the department of contemporary and prospective creation at the Centre Pompidou. The event’s theme, “Viva Arte Viva”, covers the capacity of artists to “invent their own universes” and “inject vitality into the world we live in”, in the words Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale foundation. This faith in art and the future is a deliberate choice on Baratta’s part after a beautiful but austere 2015 vintage, curated by Okwui Enwezor (“All the World’s Futures”). The Italian city will be welcoming numerous exhibitions and national pavilions simultaneously. Much to see, to hear, and to reflect on…
French Pavilion: a new-generation recording studio
This year, the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale is being overseen by Xavier Veilhan, and shouldered by curators Lionel Bovier (director of the MAMCO in Geneva) and Christian Marclay (artist and musician). Veilhan, as successor to Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, is setting up a project called “Merzbau musical” which plays on the volumes and decors of the French Pavilion’s space, drawing inspiration from a recording studio. The exhibition’s title is a nod to Kurt Schwitters whose “Merzbau” consisted of a habitable construction of variable dimensions, composed of salvaged objects. Schwitters’ project, initially intended to be named “Cathédrale de la misère érotique” (Cathedral of Erotic Misery), started in Hannover, then continued in Oslo and New York, throughout the artist’s life. In the French Pavilion, Xavier Veilhan places at the public’s disposal all types of musical instruments – some existing, others invented for the occasion.
Where? French Pavilion, in the Giardini
When? From 13 May to 26 November
Giacometti’s refusal(s) at the Swiss Pavilion
From trauma springs celebration… Despite several requests, Alberto Giacometti systematically refused to contribute to the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, arguing that he was an international artist, and for this reason, wildly opposed to association with “any State whatsoever”. “Women of Venice”, curator Philipp Kaiser’s proposition for the Swiss Pavilion, retraces this obstinate refusal. Kaiser has backed himself up with Teresa Hubbard, Alexander Birchler and Carol Bove to produce what some already consider as a thumbing of the nose at the artist’s will. In the Swiss Pavilion, the duo Hubbard & Birchler offers a documentary on Flora Mayo – American artist and lover of Giacometti – while Carol Bove has produced a new series of sculptures inspired by the Swiss artist and his heritage, namely his groups of figures.
Where? Swiss Pavilion, in the Giardini
When? Until 27 September
Damien Hirst, the Serenissimo
After showing Sigmar Polke and Rudolf Stingel at the Palazzo Grassi – Punta della Dogana, curator Elena Geuna is tackling another big name in contemporary art: Damien Hirst. This is the first time that the two spaces of the Pinault Collection in Venice will be devoted to the one and the same artist (“Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable”). It is also the first solo exhibition for Damien Hirst in Italy since his 2004 retrospective at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. It seems that the project has occupied the British troublemaker in the last ten years …
Where? Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana
When? From 9 April (closing date unspecified)
Genre mixing at the Palazzo Contarini-Polignac
The Palazzo Contarini-Polignac is playing on synthesis via its “Link of the Worlds” exhibition combining visual arts, poetry, the culinary arts and haute couture. Research into perfume and Claudine Drai’s diaphanous silk paper-on-canvas sculptures sketch out ties with the flavours of Guy Martin (starred chef from the restaurant Le Grand Véfour), the poems of Olivier Kaeppelin (director of the Fondation Maeght, who has often written on the artist) and creations by Hubert Barrère (artistic director of the Lesage house). Distant shores, resounding echoes…
Where? Magazzino Gallery, Palazzo Contarini-Polignac
When? From 13 May to 27 September
Mark Bradford fills the United States Pavilion
Abstract painter Mark Bradford is developing a two-faced project for the Biennale. On the one hand, “Tomorrow is Another Day”, an exhibition of paintings producing a narrative on history’s contradictions. Curated by Christopher Bedford, the new director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Katy Siegel, curator at the same institution, the exhibition will be composed of old paintings and new works. On the other hand, there is Bradford’s social project developed with the Venetian association Rio Terà dei Pensieri, aiming to reinsert Venice’s former prisoners by offering them job opportunities. The programme, baptised “Process Collettivo”, will continue over six years, and include Bradford’s participation in the opening of a space in the Frari district where craft products made by the prisoners will be sold.
Where? United States Pavilion, in the Giardini
When? From 13 May 27 September
Rita Kernn-Larsen, the surrealist years
“Project Rooms”, the inaugural exhibition launching the new space of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, is being orchestrated by curator Grazina Subelyté and will pay homage to the surrealist years of Rita Kernn-Larsen. The artist and Peggy Guggenheim were friends, the latter inviting the former to exhibit in her London gallery Guggenheim Jeune in 1938 – an exhibition which would mark the start of Rita Kernn-Larsen’s surrealist years. This is a rare opportunity to see this aspect of the artist’s work outside of Denmark and Scandinavian countries. During the Biennale, the Collection will also be unveiling a vast retrospective dedicated to the work of Mark Tobey (“Mark Tobey: Threading Light”, from 6 May to 10 September 2017).
Where? Peggy Guggenheim Collection
When? Until 26 June