For the first time since 2019, the Venice Biennale will open amidst the waterways and winding streets of the lagoon city, with the 59th edition of the event returning to its position of prominence. The crown jewel of the art world’s circuit of international art exhibitions and curated projects, with over 100 years of history behind it, the return of the exhibition sees the Most Serene Republic filled with countless shows and projects alongside the main exhibitions at the Arsenale and Giardini.
The proceedings center on the Biennale’s main exhibition, The Milk of Dreams. Curated by Cecelia Alemani, Director & Chief Curator of High Line Art, the show draws on the book by surrealist Leonora Carrington, where “life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination. It is a world where everyone can change, be transformed, become something or someone else.” The show pulls in particular on the turbulence of the past few years around the globe, asking just how art might assist us in imagining new modes of living, new conceptions of life, and perhaps even how the role and perception of humanity is currently in flux. Split between the Arsenale and the large pavilion located amidst the national pavilions in the Giardini a few minutes’ walk away, the show will draw on a range of perspectives and concepts to examine these ideas of transgression, evolution and transcendence. New work by Agnes Denes will be on view, continuing the artist’s examination of natural and sociological forces at play in the modern world, and new modes of their co-mingling, while artists Mire Lee and Hannah Levy will both continue their exploration of hybridized forms of industrial and physical materials, blended into new conceptions of bodies, both human and non-human.
The show also will include the pavilion exhibitions at the Giardini and outside the show at the Arsenale, where each of the participating countries will put on a show in their independent pavilion spaces. At the United States’s pavilion, artist Simone Leigh will continue her ambitious and powerful body of work negotiating history, black culture, and the body, filling the pavilion with works that will be sure to expand and elaborate on those themes. Another anticipated highlight is the work of artist Pilvi Takala at the Finnish Pavilion. The artist has created a body of work meditating on labor and persona, performance and modern economies, including one work where the artist was hired as an intern at Deloitte, and proceeded to do nothing. At the British Pavilion, expect work by artist Sonia Boyce, whose practice mixes together traditional drawing and painting with an embedded social practice that will surely add an intriguing wrinkle to the shows on offer in the Giardini. Another highlight should come from the German Pavilion, where Maria Eichhorn will continue a recent trend of critical evaluation of modern politics and social mores.
Simone Leigh, Untitled (M*A*S*H) (2018), via Luhring Augustine
There are also the exhibitions spread out across the city and providing a broad range of different perspectives on the city and its long history with the arts. From ambitious affairs at the city’s museums and foundations to small pop-ups and project exhibitions, to talks, lectures and performances, the city will be packed with artists and works over the next few months. At the Fondazione Prada, an engaging continuation of the ongoing Human Brains project will realize a show organized by Udo Kittelmann in collaboration with artist Taryn Simon, continuing the project’s inquiries into the understanding and exploration of consciousness and intelligence with a distinct investigation of art and culture in particular. Another intriguing project comes from the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, where a body of sculptural works by Joseph Beuys will go on view, exploring in particular the artist’s understanding of art as a social restorative. Another perennial highlight will be the Punta Della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi, François Pinault’s two properties in the city, converted for art exhibitions, and which will host ambitious shows of work by Bruce Nauman and Marlene Dumas, respectively. Also of note is the premiere of Wu Tsang’s full length interpretation of Moby Dick.
All told, there’s any number of events and openings that will take place over the course of the week in Venice, and ample events and projects to discover, winding one’s way through the walkways of the city. The fair opens to the public Saturday.
– D. Creahan
The Venice Biennale [Exhibition Site]
Human Brains at Fondazione Prada [Exhibition Site]
Fondazione Giorgio Cini [Exhibition Site]
Marlene Dumas at Palazzo Grassi [Exhibition Site]
Bruce Nauman at Punta Della Dogana [Exhibition Site]