Okwui Enwezor invited 136 artists from 53 countries, 89 of them are showing for the first time at the Biennale and many of them are unknown to the (Western) art world. It is hardly possible to understand these very conceptional works without reading at least the catalogue text before. It would have been a great help to have at least the catalogue text printed out at the walls beside the works. So, when you walk through the show, you see either disturbed faces asking for explanation or heads bent down for reading.
As a welcome change to the usual art fair art, this show featured a number of great drawings: For instants by Nidhal Chamekh or Olga Chernysheva.
Being born in Nigeria, Mr. Enwezor is a globally well-connected curator and an outspoken expert in African art. After a longer period in New York, he now works as director of Munich’s Haus der Kunst.
In 2002, when Okwui Enwezor was the curator of Documenta 11, he already widened the all too Western perspective on contemporary art by featuring then unknown artists from Africa, Asia or South America in the most important show of that time. He continues to do so. I like this idea. However, walking the dark and narrow aisles of the show, I realized that many of these non-western artists live and work in the usual art city hubs, like New York, Paris or Berlin. Or they are represented by galleries form these places.
Sometimes I wonder, is this really the contemporary art from (e.g.) Africa or is this art, produced for the way the western art world want’s to see (e.g.) African art? Well, Mr. Enwezor should know…
The Golden Lions also reflect the general direction of the curator: El Anatsui, 71, the Ghanaian doyen of contemporary art, receives the lifetime achievement award. Adrian Piper won the best artist Golden Lion with her Beuys-inspired works. And the best country pavilion went in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide to the great Armenian pavilion with a number of Armenian diaspora artists at remote Isola de San Lazzaro.
Okwui Enwezor confesses in the Guardian interview that also he never read all three volumes of Das Kapital in full length. He said, ‘I wanted to make things a little more sober, undramatic, deeply reflective, deeply political.’
I think the show certainly is very serious, academically faultless, very political (however not at all balanced), really unpleasant to see and certainly no fun.
I just ask, where are ‘All the Worlds Futures’? Not one? Really? Can’t be.
'All the Worlds Futures' by Okwui Enwezor at La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy
Through 22nd Nov. 2015