Monday, June 11, 2007

Venice Envy

A good friend of mine who found me a room in Central Venice and all but booked the flight for me will be exasperated to hear this, but in reading the accounts of the 52nd Biennale I'm finding online, I so-o-o-o-o wish I had been there for the opening. It sounds typically surreal and delightful. Here are a few samples of eye-witness accounts and impressions:

Walter Robinson:

In Italian, the slogan for the 52nd International Exhibition of the 2007 Venice Biennale, June 10-Nov. 21, 2007 -- "pensa con i sensi, senti con la mente" -- sounds like an advert for a breath mint. In English, that’s "think with the senses, feel with the mind" -- and just plain bad advice.

The Italian pavilion, the warren of galleries that hosts the main part of the exhibition, features individual rooms filled with works by curator Rob Storr’s usual suspects -- Gerhard Richter (a particularly gummy assortment of smear abstractions), Louise Bourgeois (a grid of not-half-bad grid drawings done in blue pen), Ellsworth Kelly (they looked better a few months ago at his New York gallery), Robert Ryman, Nancy Spero, Kara Walker, Susan Rothenberg, Thomas Nozkowski.

For this we come to Venice? Oi.

From Sarah Douglas:

"I'm only now learning about art," said this fund fellow, as the boat neared the Isola, and Kosuth's project swam into view. He gestured vaguely around and added, "And"

In any event, as the boat neared the island it moved into the eerie glow emitted by its buildings. Kosuth had covered the monastery's exterior with fluorescent tubing spelling out words in various languages. The effect, at night at least, is otherworldly, with the words illuminating the hundreds of revelers on the lawn.

But the light was not strong enough to blind us from real-world concerns. "Forget the money! The bureaucracy!" said Kosuth's dealer Sean Kelly, as he described the ordeal of arranging such an ambitious installation in Venice (It’s on view through November). Money again! By then we had landed on the Isola, which resembled a sort of Kythira for partying art folks—prosecco, canapes, chatter. The mood there was typical of the first few days of the Biennale. The art world, having just landed, seemed at once weary and excited, at once enervated and invigorated. Veterans of the festival circuit looked around with expressions that said both: "Oh no... this again?" and "Oh boy! This! Again!"
From Randy Kennedy:

The city is so packed during the day, but at night it’s like a film set you have all to yourself. You never know what’s going to come your way. Tonight, the curators of an unlikely show of trippy paintings by the spiritual guru Adi Da Samraj (also known as Bubba Free John; born Franklin Albert Jones in New York; now residing in Fiji) took me along some winding alleyways for an unofficial late-night visit to the show. The other (very late) night, I got a chance to hear the amazing blues-marinated voice of the Italian singer Paolo Conte, who The Times once described as having a face that is “part Florentine fresco” and “part Venetian carnevale mask, with a nose straight out of Dante.”
From Carol Vogel:

Normally the installation at the Arsenale has a hodepodge effect, but under Mr. Storr, it is more coherent, looking like a carefully conceived museum exhibition rather than a random assemblage of works. Among the standouts are a pair of tapestrylike hangings fashioned from discarded soda cans by the artist El Anatsui, who was born in Ghana and lives in Nigeria; though steeped in African culture, their shimmering patina evoked the luster of a painting by Gustav Klimt.

For the first time the Biennale is also including comics. The North African artists Eyoum Ngangue and Faustin Titi have created original drawings for a comic book about displacement, depicting a young African boy’s failed crossing from Tangiers to Europe in search of a brighter future.

From Charlotte Higgins:

France and Germany are the must-see pavilions this year, if you're lucky enough to get in. But after hours of speeches, crowds and queuing - I need a little lie down.

If Tuesday, VIP day at the Venice Biennale, was a bit frenetic, Wednesday was a mess: the Giardini now opened up for the official press days and became a nightmare. You couldn't move in the supposedly tranquil gardens for the crowds, or for bumping into people from the UK.

The entire staff of the Tate had apparently appeared, but the pristine white trousers of the exquisitely turned out and beautiful young contemporary curators were sprayed with mud as the heavens opened and the rain poured down furiously. I stood under my umbrella for about an hour of grotesquely tedious speeches by various dignitaries for the official inauguration of Felix Gonzales-Torres's American pavilion. Not fun.

Image above: The work How To Blow Up Two Heads At Once, by Yinka Shonibare from Nigeria is exhibited at the African pavilion.

Labels: Venice Biennale 2007


Anonymous David said...

This is a bit off-topic, but I just want to remind all commenters not to discuss last night's Sopranos episode here. Not until EW has confirmed that he's finally seen it :)

6/11/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It will be months if not years before I see it David, as we're still on Season 3 (we don't have HBO and hence are watching it via netflix).

Besides, I can't avoid reading who's been whacked, etc. So I'm more or less aware of where things stand (I sneaked a peek to see that Tony is not yet sleeping with the fishes).

Too bad, actually. My dream ending would have been for Tony to get whacked and Carmella to emerge (out of seemingly nowhere, but with a sequence of flashbacks that illustrate how she had secretly been amassing power all along, a la, Tony's Mother) as the new, very vengeful, boss. (Mr. Chase, if you're reading, that's the script for your first Soprano's movie,'re welcome).

6/11/2007 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Edward, I won't reveal anything about last night's episode, but regardless of what did or didn't happen w/ Tony, your dream ending w/ Carmella may still be possible. Never underestimate the power of spinoffs.

6/11/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the sopranos?

for this we come to edward winkleman? oi.

the end was pretty good, though.

6/11/2007 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


feel free to jump in and discuss the Venice's ripe for feedback.

6/11/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, the organized art business 2007 - sounds like an advert for a breath mint ;)

Anyway, great collection of impressions and some very nice links, thanks!

One more site with reports and photos:

6/11/2007 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

any one read Linda Yablonsky on art forum .com she is so offensive, name dropper, i find her the most odious of the art world gossip writers. in a way she bothers me the most because she is so shamelessly a star fucker, really doesnt care for anyone that is not famous, only cares about the parties and who is there. this is pure and simple gossip writing, name dropping like liz smith, i find the whole thing gross. is it just me or does anyone else find her offensive?believe me i like gossip like anyone else, trash too, but her i find wrong wrong wrong.

6/11/2007 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was wonderfulllll....

W. Robinson knows shit! Please.

6/11/2007 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

Interesting. I never noticed the pun suggested by "venice envy" before. I guess I was too fixated on the word labiennale in the URL.

6/12/2007 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let's have a labia bienale!

also, anon 11:58: do you mean robinson knows his shit, or what he knows is shit (meaning, he don't know shit). please!

6/12/2007 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walter Robinson doesn't know shit. Please....

6/12/2007 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the Adi Da Trancendental Realism exhibit, and it was really beautiful. After going through the Arsenale, I was ready for some beauty.

Sitting with the big paintings (is that what they are?) for a while, I started to feel like I was in a theater or a japanese garden.

They have benches so you can sit with the art for as long as you want. Venice was really lively, so after a while I was glad to take in something less public.


6/13/2007 04:21:00 AM  

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