(53. Biennale di Venezia 2009)
This year's most important art event just has started: La Biennale di Venezia. What the Oscars are for the movies - is a participation in the Venice Biennial for the visual arts.
Moreover, this Venice Biennial is a very good one!
Director Daniel Birnbaum made an excellent choice choosing the title:
Fare Mondi // Making Worlds
He says: 'A work of art represents a vision of the world and if taken seriously it can be seen as a way of making a world. It is an exhibition driven by the aspiration to explore worlds around us as well as worlds ahead. It is about possible new beginnings!'
This - very wide - concept works: There are 77 country pavilions and 44 collateral events. Both numbers are the largest in history.
This also means that it is nearly impossible to see the whole Biennial - unless you spend the summer there...
There are 5 parts of the exhibition:
Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venzia, said about the 44 collateral events: 'They are formed by institutions, who are not part of a country's official participation, but who want to be present here. Anybody can apply for participation - the event just has to be considered as significant by the Biennial's curators.'
In contrary to earlier Venice Biennials there have been some structural changes:
- The former 'Italian Pavilion' in the Giardini has been enlarged and renamed in the Biennial's Pavilion (Palazzo delle Esposizioni).
- The official Italian contribution is now located in the Arsenale area.
For a long time I have been skeptic about the Venice Biennial's approach of an 'Olympic' contest of the world's countries in the field of visual arts. However, I came to change my opinion for two reasons:
- Many countries cooperate with each other (like the Nordic and Danish pavilion) or show artists of other countries (like Germany). This way they break up this 'nationalistic' approach.
- The joint thinking of a large number of curators about a given title produces a more interesting result than the ideas of just one expert. (There is some nonsense too, but that is not the majority.)
On Saturday, the Golden Lions have been awarded to:
- Yoko Ono and John Baldessari for lifetime achievement
- Bruce Nauman (USA) for best national participation
- Tobias Rehberger for best artist of the exhibition
- Nathalie Djurberg for best promising young artist of the exhibition
I absolutely share the admiration for the work of Yoko Ono, John Baldessari, Bruce Nauman and Nathalie Djurberg.
Nevertheless, I also have to say that I already saw better Nauman exhibitions than this one - for instants his retrospective at Hayward Gallery in London of 1998.
Ridiculous is the jury's decision to award the best artist lion to Tobias Rehberger for his design of the new Biennale's cafeteria(!?). I think there were a lot more impressive contributions than this one.
I may suggest to make your own decision: Go to Venice - this year it is really worth it!
by U. G. L.
La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy, from 7 June - 22 November 2009.