The 57th Venice Biennale, Viva Arte Viva, opens up a world of contemporary art in a city rich with history. There are 86 national participants displayed in the historic pavilions at the Giardini, the Arsenale and in the city center. The 2017 Venice Biennale features the work of 120 artists from 51 countries. There are first time appearances of artists from Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati and Nigeria. The Giardini area has 29 different pavilions, while the countries without pavilions are displayed at other venues in Venice. One hundred three artists will be shown for the first time at the Venice Biennale. The art show opened to the public on May 13 and will be on display until Nov. 26, 2017.
The Venice Biennale first started as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of King Umberto and Margherita of Savoy. The Biennale was a resolution of the City Council in 1893 and the event took place two years later in 1895. There were over 200,000 visitors at the first Venice Biennale, which was originally called the International Art Exhibition of the City of Venice.
This year’s show is solely curated by Christine Marcel, who is known as the chief curator of contemporary art at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She has directed plans for the show without collaboration from other curators because she said that she always works on her own.
“Today, in a world full of conflicts and shocks, art bears witness to the most precious part of what makes us human. Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions. Art is the last bastion, a garden to cultivate above and beyond trends and personal interests. It stands as an unequivocal alternative to individualism and indifference.” – CHRISTINE MARCEL
The entire exhibition has nine chapters or families of artists. Two of the chapters opened the show at the Central Pavilion, which was then followed by seven other chapters hosted at the Arsenale through the Giardino delle Vergini. Marcel plans to take visitors inside the artist’s studio to give some perspective on the artist’s process like their inspiration and creation.
President of the Venice Biennale, Paolo Baratta, said in a statement that “the 57th Exhibition introduces a further development. It is as though what has always been our primary work method-encounter and dialogue-has now become the theme of the exhibition because this year’s Biennale is dedicated to celebrating, and almost giving thanks for, the very existence of art and artists, whose worlds expand our perspective and the space of our existence.”
At the Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi, the Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable by British artist Damien Hirst are on display as part of the Biennale. This is the first time that the both spaces are dedicated to a single artist. The project is almost ten years in the making. Each piece tells the story of an ancient Greek ship wreck. The cargo on the ship was a collection of Aulus Calidius Amotan that was destined for a temple dedicated to the sun. Some of the pieces in the collection are covered in barnacles, sea grass, and coral from their extensive stay in the Indian Ocean. The pieces were said to have been lost in a legendary shipwreck 2,000 years ago.
German contemporary artist, Anne Imhof, won the Biennale’s top prize, the Golden Lion award. Her work in the show is called Faust, which is the German word for fist. Her work includes sculptures and also actors that Imhof continuously collaborates with. The performers have been sliding underneath the installed glass floor and hanging from the ceiling. The performers have been said to interact with each other, visitors, and the space.
On display at the Russian Pavilion, Theatrum Orbis by Semyon Mikhailovsky, brings together sculpture, installation, video and sound that creates a theatrical concept. The title translates from Russian to mean ‘Theatre of the World.’ The sculptures are white dolls, dummies, and androids. Mikhailovsky installation piece, Blocked Content, is only fully visible through a virtual reality app. Video artist Pirogova has a performative video on display as part of the project. As for the music aspect, Dmitri Kourliandski has composed a score for the installation piece, while two other composers Peter Aidu and Konstantin Dudakov-Kashuro created a musical piece for the project called Theatrum Sonus.
Mark Bradford, a Los Angeles artist is representing the United States at the show with his work, Tomorrow Is Another Day, presented by the U.S Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) and the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University. According to work’s website, the artwork “is a narrative of ruin, violence, agency, and possibility, a story of ambition and belief in art’s capacity to engage us all in urgent and profound conversations, and even action.” One of Bradford’s pieces is a sculpture of a tangled mass of dark brown and yellow that winds around the white central rotunda.
Another American artist, Senga Nengudi, debuted her work, R.S.V.P., which consists of a fan aimed at nylon pantyhose that are tied to walls and the ground. According to the artist’s website, Nengudi uses visual art, dance, body mechanics, and matters of the spirit in different ways to create her art. Her website further notes that, “The thrust of her art is to share common experiences in abstractions that hit the senses and center, often welcoming the viewer to become a participant.”
Tickets can be bought online or on the day of from booths at the Arsenale and Giardini. Forty-eight hour tickets cost 30 euros (33 dollars and forty-eight cents). The Arsenale is open every day, except for certain Mondays, from 10 am to 8 pm and the Giardini is open from 10 am to 6 pm.