14 July 2011

The Biennale of Arte in Venezia 2011

Actually on production, but already readeable:

 Venetian Biennale

Bice Curiger, "Patronnese" of Biennale Art 2011

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Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto, "the animals’ creation", Venice, Gallery of the Academy, momentarily exhibited at the Biennale- Art 2011-07-12 Above the title: Loris Gréaud, the work leaning against a wharf of the Arsenal,

"The Geppetto Pavilion"

Today the 45th International Art Exposition, the Venetian Biennale, (which will remain open until November 27th 2011), has opened its doors to the public. People have been talking about it for months, especially since they have discovered that the curator, this year, would  be a woman, in charge of the exhibition’s setting-out, and all those powers linked to the creation and management of the most important artistic event of the world, which imposes and allows some choices that will have great cultural and economical repercussions. A curator, the lady who has this year signed the Biennale Art in Venice, with many credentials: an out-and-out all-able in the field of vanguards, a breeding ground of important frequentations and ideas, an art historian and critic, Bice Curiger, aged 63, Swiss and native of Zurich (above in the picture).

 The poublic of previews, opne to critics and journalists, looks at the big canvass by Tintoretto “The Last Supper”, coming from Saint Giorgio Maggiore Basilica, almost 6 meters long

She has been put in charge of an hard task, and considered the first approaches with critics and journalists during the first days of opening, it looks like she has done a good job. She had to assemble those artists from every Country who traditionally partecipate  to the event, in addition to many new artists, while Vittorio Sgarbi has taken care of the Italia Pavilion.

We think that both the results must be appreciated, besides the numerous polemics, especially regarding the choices made for the italian section.

Illumi-Nations (Illuminations) is the title that Bice Curiger has wanted to assign to this year’s kermesse, constituted by new art proposals of 83 artists coming from all over the world, with a number of Countries which is way higher than the years before.

The Illuminations have been a real “brainwave”, like the curator herself says, because this term is full of different and “illuminating” allusions, as soon as you compare it with the artistic proposals and with the different “philosophies” that they bring. They concern all the aspects linked to the use of light in art, especially in a context like the Venetian one, which deeply feeds on light, with its reflections of lagoon water, in its variables of shade and half-light, as its history keeps reminding. It’s nota n accident that the Swiss curator has wanted to draw her inspiration from Tintoretto, one of the most well-known artist of the 16th Century, to the extent that she has put at the entrance of the exhibitions three of its canvasses, between the most famous and beautiful ones.

Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto, “Body snatching of San Marco”,151 x 258 cm, Venice, Accademia Gallery. Tintoretto has painted many canvasses with this same subject, and one of them, maybe the most published, is in Brera picture gallery in Milan.

The other three canvasses by Tintoretto in Biennala are “The Last Supper”, coming from Saint Giorgio Maggiore Basilica, and other two works kept in the Accademia Galleries, the “Body snatching of San Marco”, and the “Animals Creation”, lent to Biennale.
“These paintings by Tintoretto, one of the most experimental artists of the italian art, are particularly fascinating  for their ecstatic light, almost feverish”- has declared Curiger- “and for their reckless approach to the composition that reverses the classic order of Renaissance. These works will play a fundamental role in the exhibition, establishing an artistic, historical and emotional relation with the local context”. A challenge to welcome?
Why these three great canvasses by Tintoretto?, they have asked her: “Because peopole who come to the Biennale, usually, want to see only the Biennale: a contemporary art bubble in the city. I wanted to remind that, outside of it, there is Venice”. Did you want to remind it through Tintoretto’s light, since the title of “your” Biennale is “ILLUMInations”? She answers: “Yes, it is true, I chose three canvasses by Tintoretto where light ha san important role. I’m thinking about the immaterial angels of “The Last Supper”, pure brushstrokes of light; or the rainstorm of the “Body snatching of San Marco”. But my decisioni s also a provocation for all the artists in Biennale, an invitation to a comparison with the past”.

The use of the light component as a protagonist this year has had Tintoretto as a sponsor, reconnecting the gloomy, dark and complex, terrible and latent, marshy and not always limpid contemporary art, which speaks about reality as it was something hard to decode, to the art of a more shining past. Bice Curiger seems to be proud and conscious of this, since she has made the corageous and innovative choice of Tintoretto as a guardian angel to the event, “because he was a creator of “bolts of thought”, and an inventor of a dazzling “feverish light”. Light is really important for Bice Curiger, who was born and now lives in Switzerland; the Italian and Venetian light always fascinates people who come from the North.

Let’s talk about the title of the biennale, “ILLUMI – nations”. A word game between light and nations, those nations that participate, way more numerous than in the past; more numerous are the artists too, a big part of them is younger that 35 and there are about 30 women.

“Compassionate Dream”, Jean Fabre. After the laboratories of the past March, staring from June 1st 2011, in conjunction with the Biennale, the Flemish artist presents this year five new sculptures of big dimensions in the New Big School of Saint Mary of Mercy. It is, for the artist, a performative work, which represents the sensations of a mother who wants to replace her dead son.
Between the works, one of the most popular is a new reading of Pity by Michelangelo, entitled by Fabre Compassionate Dream (Pity V). Christ is portraied with the artist’s face, and Mary with the one of a skull.

The fruition of the sculptures will take place through a particular ritual. The spectators will be asked to take off their shoes, and once equipped with slippers provided by the artist, they will be allowed to go up to the platform-stage and immerse themselves into the sight.

Coming back to the ladies between the artists, the curator has written a book about Georgia O'Keeffe and Méret Oppenheim...« The one about Oppenheim was a biography. Says Bice: “She asked me to do that: an honour, because at that time I was 30, and she was already aged and one of the protagonists of surrealism. Getting to know her and working with her was really exciting: intelligent, ironic, still so open to the world. And she gave me a beautiful gift, when the book was published: a collage that Max Ernst, her big love, had created for her, dedicated to her. Giving it to me was an act of trust, a donation of something intimate and precious, that she really treasured». The interviewer then asks her: “ If you could bring home something of the Biennale, your Biennale, what would you choose?” “Maybe Loris Gréaud’s whale?” (she laughs: it’s an installation at the Arsenal, picture above the title). “Just kidding, it wouldn’t certainly fit in my apartment. But I have many works made by the artists I have known, whose exhibitions I have cured: I have always bought something, afterwards, maybe something small. They’re like pages of a diary for me, concentric circe of a biography. I’m not a collector: I would never sell anything”. Question: “Do you own something by Méret Oppenheim?” Answer: “Yes, some drawings.In her testament she wrote that I could choose what I liked. A touching act.” Question: “Do you wish that a person come sto the Biennale and feels…happy”. Answer: “Happiness? In the contemporary art you never talk about happiness, is it a provocation? (she smiles) “ And yet art can do it: it illuminates us, sometimes even with joy”.
This episode reminded by her can explain us her big passion, since she was young, for art, and everything of art and from art that can cause an emotion…a way traced long since, which has brought her to direct the Biennale, this year, with a sureness of touch, without any hesitation; she will be really appreciated for the acumen in the choice of the works, in the ability to continously correlate an artist with another, an idea and another in the complex articulation of their meanings, inside contemporary art.

 Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto, “The Last Supper”, Saint Giorgio Maggiore Basilicas

The three works by Tintoretto that have fascinated Bice Curiger have reference to some contemporary works in so far as the events’ representation is overlapped by paradoxical phenomena, which describe fleeting fragments of reality in which factors abnormal, unreal and full of suspence arise. The action of the protagonist figures emerges in theatrical circumstances, some supernatural events overlap them, and are presented in scandalous, inconceivable, absurd terms, and exposed to the public’s judgment.
That’s the way the sublime, gigantic classic canvasses become a viaticum for an attempt to penetrate contemporary art, made out of objectifications in which paradox and irony are always latent; but also artifice and metaphor, whose light emanates a san adventure of critical and desecrating spirit of the artist, while Cattelan’s birds flutter and defecate everywhere in an Hitchcock way.

In the world of art Bice Curiger is especially known for the creation of a sophisticated trade magazine like “Parkett”, created together with another lady,
Jacqueline Burkhardt, in 1984. Curiger has always dealt with women who were artists, starting from the first book about Georgia O’ Keeffe, or the biography about Méret Oppenheim. What about women at the Biennale of this year? Who will be there this year? Curiger answers: “Cindy Sherman will be there (american photographer and artist, known for her conceptual “self-portraits”), with an original “wallpaper”. Do you know what I find extraordinary about Sherman? That she has been able to reinvent herself. At the and of the 80’s they said” she has already done everything… whereas …”. The Biennale this year has been strict: no details and no pictures before the paint.” Question: “ Give us another anticipation, another woman that we will meet…”; “Piplotti Risi”. Piplotti risi, videoartist, Swiss: she has been recently called by the archistar Jean Nouvel for the new hotel Sofitel in Vienna. And its decorated and ipercoloured ceiling, in the restaurant at the highest floor, has become a new “Landmark” of the city, visible also from far away”. Question: “Did you like it?” : “I like Piplotti Risi’s work, and I have been following her for a while. For the Biennale she has had three works of Canaletto’s school copied, in China, and she has “worked” on them with images and videos. It’s what you can see right now in the exhibition”. Copying a master of the past and reinterpreti t: a provocation?

 "This is not a game", work by Lorenzo Quinn, exhibited in the Biennale
Lorenzo Quinn says: “While observing my son who was playing on the terrace with some toy soldiers and a plastic tank, I realized that children try to emulate what they see in everyday life and that, unfortunately, images of tanks and soldiers dominate the media, they are a really common presence.”
“War has fearfully become familiar and whoever is not involved and can watch it from the comfort of its living room, remains indifferent.
I see the world leaders using their armies as they were toys that you can maneuver and destroy with the same carelessness of a boy. But this is not a game, there are real people and real weapons, and the results isanything but a game.”
Figure o fan artist that in the past twenty years has showed his works al lover the world and is present in many private collections, Lorenzo Quinn couldn’t avoid to “nail down” the town of artistic interest par excellence, making it feel confused and “embarassed” about the arrival of his “not game of war” that, kept suspended with lightness on the sea by a hand, asks us not to forget the past pain  so as to avoid it in the future.
Of real dimensions and colours, the site specific that Quinn will show at the next Biennale is almost “unsympathetic” when it forces us to think, and causes a lump in the throat of anybody accepts to stop and look or feel… I have done it and felt it, and now I’m here so as to introduce a person who has been able,through art, to stop my race against time for a moment: Lorenzo and his symbolic realism.

The artists that have been more appreciated by the curator are those ones who break into paradox in an immediate and overwhelming way, with more elegance and clearness than in the past, so as to renew the pleasure, sometimes lost, of spending some time with them, as you walk between the pavilions: Cindy Sherman, Franz West, Sigmar Polke, Fernando Pratz, are the most visible ones, since the curator has much talked about them during her interviews. But also Yto Barrada, coming from Morocco, the chinese artist Son Dong, Christian Marclay, Urs Fischer, Monica Bonvicini.

Above and below: Fernando Pratz, Chilean pavilion. The structure of the artisti s constituted by three works: an intervention on the impact of the volcanic eruption in Chaiten (2008); many parts have reference to the earthquake that struck the south centre area of Chile (2010); and an installation with neon letters that reproduces the announcement that the irish explorer Ernest Shackleton had published, arpund 1911, so as to recruit men for his expedition in Antarctica. Prats produces images starting from smoke, through which he can accumulate natural phenomena like the water expelled by a geyser or the surface of an immense glacier. His technique has been notice by figures like the French theorist Paul Ardenne, who has included  Fernando Prats’ work in the current exhibition in the Space Luis Vuitton of Paris, praising him because he has given start to an “uncommon form of painting”.

Cindy Sherman: "Untitled 2010" (Picture Andrea Pattaro/Vision)
Untitled (2010) from Sherman’s latest work. After completing a series, Sherman says she often feels she never wants to take another photo. "I’m just like, forget it, I don’t want to put on any more make-up again, I’m so sick of those wigs, so sick of it all." 
(Photograph: Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London and Metro Pictures).

Sei opere di recente produzione di Allora e Galzadilla con il supporto del Museo d’Indianapolis, hanno trasformato il padiglione Americano in uno spazio dinamico e interattivo, assegnando un titolo eloquente “GLORIA”. Nome femminile italiano e spagnolo, armonioso, con evidenti riferimenti religiosi, economici, culturali, sportivi, di grandezza e forte identità nazionale.
Sarà sicuramente Track and Field a rubare la scena, a rendere ancora più visibile questa invasione culturale pacifica e creativa. Un carro armato capovolto di sessanta tonnellate sormontato da un tapis roulan, dove l’atleta corre ad intervalli regolari durante l’esposizione. Sarà una metafora di pace od una mera allusione alle possibili olimpiadi di Roma del 2020? 

"Signora serenissima", "I’m a Lady", un’opera di Mary Sibande, esposta nel Padiglione del Sud­africa alla Biennale di Venezia.

Totalmente diversa l'impostazione che Vittorio Sgarbi ha dato al Padiglione Italiano, del quale è stato curatore. Titolo polemico della mostra: "L'arte non è cosa nostra". Di opere in mostra ce ne sono 260, che è un numero impressionante. Esse sono state scelte con cura, ma la loro distribuzione nello spazio, come fossero affastellate una sull'altra, messe in ogni dove, sopra e sotto, ai mujri o appoggiate al pavimento, in mezzo alle sale una contra l'altra, vedendone anche il retro, appese ai sofitti, le fa sembrare lì per caso. La scelta di Sgarbi è stata quella di rappresentare uno spazio residuale, quasi si trattasse di un magazzino con oggetti alla rinfusa, una sorta di mercato spontaneo, una fiera. Non vi sono solo tele, ma anche sculture e fotografie, ove capita di imbattersi, quasi fossimo in un circo,  con artisti al posto degli animali, perfino in un cagnolino, dipinto con scarpette rosa, portato dall'attrice Adriana Asti.

"Kopflosi" (senza testa), l'opera di Ivan Landschnaider, giovane artista altoatesino che ha scelto temi relativi alla massificazione, da presentare e per presentarsi all’interno del padiglione della Repubblica araba siriana, sull’isola di San Servolo, alla 54esima Biennale internazionale d’arte di Venezia. Come lui spiega la massificazione è "spersonalizzazione spirituale e morale dell’individuo come diretta conseguenza della civiltà dei consumi"

Vi si trovano ritratti anche di Sgarbi, e poi di Berlusconi, vi si trova di tutto, un po' di sesso anche qua e là che non guasta mai, installazioni, scarabocchi, paesaggi, opere dal gusto naif. Gli artisti, molti mai sentiti, alcuni già noti coi quali Sgarbi lavora da tempo, quali Stefano Di Stasio, Lino Frongia, ("il più grande pittore antico vivente"), Aurelio Bulzatti, Rolando Gandolfi Gandolfi e il fotografo Antonio Biasiucci.
A pensarci bene però, quella di Sgarbi potrebbe essere solo un’operazione commemorativa, anche perché il celebre critico/storico ha dichiarato di voler celebrare i 150 anni dell’unità d’Italia con le sue scelte diffuse. Così il 2009 è stato l’anno di commemorazione del futurismo è quest’anno quello dell’unità d’Italia, tra due anni si potrebbe parlare di un bell’omaggio a Giuseppe Garibaldi e perché no anche uno a Guglielmo Marconi.

"You too can be in the Biennale, anche tu poi essere in Biennale". Con questo (non volutamente) ironico titolo "The Art Newspaper" fotografa in pieno lo spirito di questa Biennale di Venezia 2011 quando vi si parla di Vittorio Sgarbi. Lo stimato magazine d’arte parla di 1.200 artisti in totale di cui oltre 200 saranno presenti all’interno del Padiglione Italia. Sempre secondo The Art Newspaper,  il Vittorio Sgarbi ha mirato ad inserire all’interno della manifestazione "tutti gli artisti attivi nell’ultima decade", con un particolare accento su coloro i quali sono stati dimenticati o comunque poco conosciuti.

Venezia Arte,  si apre la Biennale con i 200 piccioni tassidermizzati di Maurizio Cattelan, sparsi un po' ovunque in mezzo alle opere degli altri artisti, sul frontone esterno d'ingresso, sulle travi e sui cornicioni interni

Dieci sculture di Vanessa Beecroft realizzate negli Studi Nicoli hanno uno spazio particolare alla Biennale di Venezia. Le ha scelte Vittorio Sgarbi, curatore del "Padiglione Italia" 2011.
Dieci sculture plasmate in rarissimi marmi colorati e bianchi, frutto di calchi alle giovani modelle nude, che nel settembre 2010 dettero vita ai "tableaux vivants" all'interno degli ottocenteschi laboratori Nicoli. È la prima volta che Vanessa Beecroft nel corso della sua vita artistica si dedica alla scultura, tralasciando le sue famose e costosissime "performance" fotografiche. Sgarbi è rimasto affascinato dalla catasta femminile di marmi speciali, perfettamente rifiniti dalle maestranze dei Nicoli. "La performance della Beecroft si pietrifica - ha scritto in un testo critico Francesca Nicoli - verso un antico e moderno concetto di scultura classica. Sono più di 30 anni che l'opera in marmo non compariva in Biennale - ha detto ancora la manager -, solo Vittorio Sgarbi poteva dare loro la giusta dignità, mettendole sotto la didascalia che è anche il titolo della sua Biennale: "L'arte non è cosa nostra"». 

Andare in Biennale d'Arte, crediamo sia sempre un tuffo utile nel senso del gioco, ovvero nella stessa linfa della vita, perchè assumiamo da ciò che di più matto fanno altre persone, mentre agiscono senza limiti, un'idea di libertà, ma soprattutto di questa l'estremo e variopinto assieme delle sue possibili varianti, espresse con il solo limite di proporre senza imporre. E' magico, e corroborante. Un piacere da non togliersi, sapendo che in questo spazio tutto è lecito, tranne che l'eterno: "Ma che cazzo vuole dire?"

Venezia, 4 giugno 2011

Enrico Mercatali

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