AO On-Site – Venice: The 55th Venice Biennale, Opening Day

May 30th, 2013

Outside the 55th Venice Biennale

The press preview for the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale, the international art world’s largest stage, kicked off this week, sprawling across the narrow alleyways and watery causeways of the Italian city.  Art Observed was on site to cover the opening ceremonies, and has this selection of pictures documenting the first day of the fair.

The Opening Reception, with Paolo Barata and Massimo Gioni

The event was initially launched early yesterday, with a press conference including Biennale President Paolo Barata and head curator Massimiliano Gioni.  Discussing the fair’s long and storied history in the context of the modern day, the two openly discussed new conceptions of the Biennale in an increasingly complex and interconnected international landscape.  As has been previously mentioned, this year’s edition of the fair’s main pavilion explores the idea of the Encyclopedic Palace, a building so incredibly vast in its cataloguing of knowledge so as to appear infinite.  It was this model that Gioni and Barata embraced in the construction of this year’s Biennale, welcoming ever more pavilions and exhibitions alongside the main show, so as to create the illusion of an endlessly spanning city of art.

Dieter Roth’s Solo Scenes

Also gone is a full emphasis on the national pavilion.  While the number of nationally identified exhibitions are up to a count of 88, including first-time entries from Angola, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Kuwait, the Maldives, Paraguay, Tuvalu, and the Vatican City, Gioni and Barata both sought to downplay its full emphasis in the dialogue of the fair.  “To identify artists by their country is a pretty depressing thing.”  Gioni said.  “I like artists to take me some place.”  Instead, the leaders for the Biennale this year were more interested in the “geography of the artist,” shared ideas and ideals that drive the creative process, and which were openly embraced in The Encyclopedic Palace.

Elisabetta Benassi

With the fair officially launched, visitors and press fanned across the city, visiting the main exhibitions at the Arsenale and Giardini, as well as the numerous pavilions spread across the city.  Art Observed has included photographs here from many of the pavilions and spaces at the Giardini and Arsenale, as well as photographs from the event’s main exhibition.

The Arsenale

Duane Hanson

Auriti’s Encyclopedic Palace

Ragnar Kjartansson’s S.S. Hangover Disembarks from the Arsenale

Ai Weiwei, Bang, at the German Pavilion

Wim Botha at the South African Pavilion

A work by Bruce Nauman

Alice Channer

A video installation by Ryan Trecartin

A work by Alfredo Jaar

A work by Walter de Maria

Rosella Biscotti at the Arsenale

A work by Roberto Cuoghi

Sculptures by Phyllida Barlow

Pawel Althamer’s The Venetians

The Kosovo Pavilion

An exhibit by Giulio Paolini

Outside the French Pavilion

A work by Sarah Sze at the USA Pavilion

A wall of Mickey Mouse figurines at the Serbian Pavilion

The Great Britain Pavilion

A work at the Egyptian Pavilion

Sarah Sze’s at the USA Pavilion

Paul McCarthy


The Serbian Pavilion

Eko Nugroho at the Indonesian Pavilion




An installation view at the Arsenale

The Great Britain Pavilion

A stacked work at the Czech Pavilion

Outside the Yugoslavian Pavilion

The Venice Biennale

Pawel Althamer’s The Venetians, at The Encylopedic Palace Exhibition

Marc Quinn’s Breath, installed in Venice

All photographs by Sophie Kitching and Tiphaine Popesco for Art Observed

—D. Creahan

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Venice Biennale