53rd Venice Biennial 2009 - Giardini

Bruce Nauman's US pavilion in the Giardini (c) Premier Art Scene

The Giardini are the historic center of the Venice Biennial. It is a  park with approx. 30 small exhibition pavilions of single countries.


The award for this year’s best pavilion went to Bruce Nauman for his US pavilion. It is not very brave to send an icon of art history to this ‘competition’. I also think there were already better Nauman exhibitions (like the one at the Hayward Gallery, London in 1998). Besides that the American pavilion is worth to see. Try to take a look during lunch time, then the line will not be as long, as it was during the opening. The Nauman retrospective continues in an university building at the other side of the Canale Grande.


'The Collectors' by Elmgreen and Dragset / Danish pavilion (c) photo by Premier Art Scene


The Nordic (Scandinavian) and Danish cooperation did gain a lot of attention. The artist couple Elmgreen & Dragset curated a show called ‘The Collectors’. It looked like the homes of an Ingmar Bergman-style broken family and their neighbor, a rich gay collector. (Ironically the Danish pavilion had a 'For Sale' sign outside.)


'The Collectors' curated by Elmgreen and Dragset / Nordic pavilion (c) photo by Premier Art Scene


More than 20 International artists were asked to contribute pieces of ‘furniture’ to these homes. In the end the dead body of the collector floats in his swimming pool (that was built just for this project). The curators state that this show is about collecting and explores the way we define ourselves by possessing things.


I think it took a lot of material for just that.


'Disorient' by Fiona Tan of 2009 (c) photo by Premier Art Scene


Fiona Tan explores in her three video projections at the Dutch pavilion how we represent ourselves and the mechanisms that determine how we interpret the representation of others.


The latest of the videos, ‘Disorient’, of 2009 was made especially for the Biennale in Venice. The camera shows you old Asian goods of an imaginary warehouse and the off-speaker reads quotes taken from Venetian merchant Marco Polo’s book ‘The Travels’.


I liked it.


Péter Forgács, ‘Col Tempo’ of 2009 (c) photo by Premier Art Scene


Péter Forgács made ‘Col Tempo’ for the Hungarian pavilion. It tries to give various prisoners of war realizable individuality by exhibiting digital portraits and letting them tell their story in a video. It is a very moving work.



Anatoly Shuravlev fixing his installation at the Russian pavilion (c) Premier Art Scene


Anatoly Shuravlev shows an interesting work in the Russian pavilion: It is a cloud of glass balls floating in the room. Coming closer you realize there are tiny black and white pictures glued on each ball.


He takes these pictures from magazines or the internet. Some can be recognized as celebrities – others are totally unknown. Looking from one ball to the other is like zapping on TV. To me it is impossible to figure out a final story from the pictures. I liked it.


Paolo W. Tamburella, ‘Djahazi’ installation for the pavilion of Union of the Comors (c) photo by Premier Art Scene


The Union of the Comors is – like the United Arab Emirates – a first time participant to the Venice Biennial. In contrary to UAE, they had a very good contribution:


The Italian artist Paolo W. Tamburella showed his installation ‘Djahazi’. Djahazis were the traditional vessels used until 2006 in the Union of the Comors. At that time the port of its capital, Moroni, was modernized. Then the use of the djahazi was prohibited as it could not match standardization used in a modern port. Many djaharzi dockers lost their jobs.


The artist commissioned local dockers to restore a djahazi, put a standard 20 ft. container (titled 'Capital') on it and docked in front of the Giardini della Biennale. I think it is a great comment on globalization.



In general there were many interesting pavilions. But also some great disappointments:


  • I did not like Liam Gillick’s installation of an Ikea-style kitchen cupboard in the nearly empty German pavilion.
  • Unlike many others I think Steve McQueen’s video in the British pavilion about the Giardini off season is not meditative – but boring.
  • And – as always – there are some pavilions that do not make sense to me in any way, like the Egyptian or Moroccan one.
Adel El Siwi, Ahmad Askalany: 'Leggermente monumentale' in the Egyptian pavilion (c) photo by Premier Art Scene
Tomas Saraceneo: ‘Galaxies Forming along Filaments, like Droplets along the Strand’s of a Spider’s Web’ of 2009 © photo by Premier Art Scene

In any case it is worth to see the Biennale’s own pavilion.



by U.G.L.



Read more about the Arsenale exhibition of the Venice Biennial


Read more about the Venice Biennale's own pavilion


Back to the Venice Biennale's overviw



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Chandni, 29-04-12 08:13
Amazing coverage. Thank you for sarihng! I really enjoyed the painted portraits with the women and the small chains around her face and neck. I have always wanted to go to the Biennale. So many various art forms conveying a vast array of topics. I bet it is a lot of fun to live there right now.The Wanderfull Traveler
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