Venice’s crowded corridors will be teeming more than ever as design and art-hungry crowds descend on the lagoon city for the biggest event on its cultural calendar. The 58th Venice Biennale (11 May – 24 November) got underway last week, with Ralph Rugoff taking the curatorial reins of central exhibition ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’ at the Arsenale and Giardini.
Ralph Rugoff has declared: «May You Live in Interesting Times will no doubt include artworks that reflect upon precarious aspects of existence today, including different threats to key traditions, institutions and relationships of the “post-war order.” But let us acknowledge at the outset that art does not exercise its forces in the domain of politics. Art cannot stem the rise of nationalist movements and authoritarian governments in different parts of the world, for instance, nor can it alleviate the tragic fate of displaced peoples across the globe .
«But in an indirect fashion, perhaps art can be a kind of guide for how to live and think in ‘interesting times.’ The 58th International Art Exhibition will not have a theme per se, but will highlight a general approach to making art and a view of art’s social function as embracing both pleasure and critical thinking. The Exhibition will focus on the work of artists who challenge existing habits of thought and open up our readings of objects and images, gestures and situations.
There’s plenty of other action spilling over into Venice’s labyrinthine waterways too, from inventive installations and soaring sculptures, to monastic manuscripts and a design collection inspired by the city’s high tide. Here’s our pick of the must-see national pavilions and exhibitions beyond the biennale.
The first international retrospective of artist Yun Hyong-keun since his death in 2007 has opened within the grand confines of Palazzo Fortuny, presented in tandem by Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary (MMCA) and Civic Museums of Venice (MUVE). Yun was central to the dansaekhwa movement: a monochromatic style of painting that emerged in his native Korea during the 1960s and 70s.
Carpenters Workshop has brought 14 of its designers including Nacho Carbonell and Mathieu Lehanneur to Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro, a palazzo with a big presence on the Grand Canal. All the new works were created in response to either Venice or the decorative space itself. Pictured, ‘Alaska Alaska’, by Virgil Abloh.
Phi, an arts and culture organisation based in Montreal, is exploring the intersection of art and technology through the lens of two female artists, Marina Abramovi? and Renata Morales. The latter is displaying a sprawing multimedia installation at Ca’Rezzonico Gallery (next to the Ca’Rezzonico Museum). Spanning two of its galleries with ceramic sculptures of female figures, chimeric beasts and more, Invasor (pictured) is set against a backdrop of found objects and debris transported from from José Noé Suro’s ceramics studio, Cerámica Suro in Guadalajara, Mexico where Morales has been fabricating her works.
‘I want to reach eternity with my images,’ says artist Brigitte Niedermair, who is putting fashion in focus for her Venice retrospective at the Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo. The exhibition ‘Brigitte Niedermair: Me and Fashion 1996-2018’ showcases more than 30 images and still lifes dedicated to fashion, which interplay with the majestic 17th and 18th century decoration of the museum’s first floor rooms.
Fondazione Prada is paying tribute to the late artist Jannis Kounellis, who died in 2017, at its Venetian outpost in the historic 18th-century palazzo of Ca’ Corner della Regina. The major retrospective, has curated by Germano Celant and developed in collaboration with Archivio Kounellis, traces his practice from 1959 onwards. Photography: Agostino Osio – Alto Piano. Courtesy of Fondazione Prada
Big Phrygian, 2010-14, by Martin Puryear, installation view at the US Pavilion. Photography: Joshua White – JWPictures.com