60th Venice Arte Biennale opens favoring Artists who have never participated before

60th Venice SArte Biannale

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The 20 of April 2024 the 60th Venice Arte Biennale opens favoring artists who have never participated in the International Exhibition

Every year at the Biennale I am more and more surprised by how far art is drifting way from what I think of as Art. In the end I can’t help asking that old question—what is Art? The purpose of art in the past was to bring a new vison, new way of inspiring us to look at the world we live in. Art inspired visual creation in graphic art, publicity, films, T.V. and even fashion and textile design as well as influencing our thinking. Certainly, curators think art is not something to hang on your wall and appreciate each day. The big money-making machine of galleries, museums and auction houses have taken over the role of what is the purpose of Art. They are killing the creative arts as well as curators who make us more confused every year by taking off on wild tangents trying to be original. Let hope for more art in this 60th year of the Biennale.

Below is my review of the Biennale in 2022 which took place at the end of the covid pandemic.

The 59 Venice Biennale, a trip through fairyland

The 59 Venice Biennale took place on the same week as the Easter holiday which was unfortunate. Venice was unbelievably packed with people in the streets, on the vaporetto and restaurants. For some reason Italy has decided that the hospital masks which we have been wearing on planes and in theater and indoor for the last year or so do not protect us??? I was almost thrown off the vaporetto, for not having purchased the new mask, by an Italian-German fascist type telling the conductor that she couldn’t be on the same vaporetto since my mask wasn’t correct.

Anyhow to the Biennale. The curator Cecilia Alemani chose the name The Milk of Dreams from the surrealist work of Leonora Carrington’s book of fairytales, written for her children. Perhaps the aim of the curator was to open our minds by orienting us back to our imagination as children. I haven’t read the book, but I did feel like I was entering fairyland or following the rabbit down the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland. At times I felt I had to shrink in order to see the five historically focused micro-exhibitions, in particular The Witch’s Cradle which was devoted to women artists working alongside surrealism. Were Alice’s argument with the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse, trapped in perpetual tea-time were because they offended political correctness. And did the Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom, smoking a hookah, crawl away in disgust that nobody will listen to anything but their own opinion. Of course, the grinning Cheshire Cat would have to be female, maybe transexual or a black Muslim in order to participate in this Biennale. Before she fades away to nothing but a floating grin to save herself from the global pandemic, she explains to Alice that everyone in Wonderland is mad, including herself and certainly this Venice Biennale is lopsided and eccentric and yet is one of the most enervating of the last few years.

The national pavilions of the Biennale and their version of new art is mostly old hat especially the German pavilion—nothing but chopped holes in the walls. Korea’s grotesque machines move too show with bits of colored art nothings. And the Japan installation, an aesthetic display of a light bands is a boring nothing concept.

The Golden Lion for Best National Participation was awarded to Great Britain’s Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way, supposedly a characteristic celebration of improvisation and collaborative play. I didn’t get to see it as the queue was a mile long. Many of my friends who saw it were highly critical and said it was decades past its sell-by date and not up to British standards. Zineb Sedira’s French Pavilion: A way of living, a way of resisting, was hardly art but interesting. This young girl escapes racism by imagining herself outside of a society trying to impose a fixed identity on her. It is a surprising presentation of a bar and a dance floor which is a love letter to the golden age of political cinema told through a short documentary film in a cinema-style screening room at the rear of the building. The American pavilion is disappointing because it is so badly curated. It starts out well with rather standard black African sculptures of Leigh’s bronzes but becomes trite at the end called the Last Garment, a large figurative sculpture of a Jamaican washerwoman in an actual pool of water. It lacks all aesthetic quality and gains nothing from its imposing size. It hits you in the face with its realistic depiction of Poor me, a black woman washing my clothes without modern equipment. So what! We all wash our clothes even men!

The Arsenal continues in much the same vein as the densely stocked Central Pavilion but belongs more fully to the realm of dreams and to various tensions of escapism verses engagement, or reason verses imagination which underpin the processes of artistic creation. It is, as usual, inconsistent with surprises and occasional amazing shocks. Yet it mostly seems ephemeral except perhaps the work of Barbara Kruger’s site-specific installation, the fabric works by Rosemarie Trockel, the colorful boiled-sweet of Niki de Sant Phalle, and the massive adobe ovens that make up Gabriel Chaile’s family portrait.

Lots of little exhibitions in the off Biennale like exhibition by a London gallerist of a light reflection show by Helen Maurer in Danielle Arnaud Venetian home. I also loved Tornabuoni’s side exhibition On Fire on the Island of Saint Giorgio. It was a view of the past when Art in France and Italy began to be truly experimental and ended by producing some remarkable art. Arman’s burnt musical collage is one of his best works and Parmiggiana’s smoked work was exactly what I would like to have on my wall. I was looking forward to the Prada exhibition. I have always found their exhibitions thoughtful and extremely interesting both in presentation and content. Their installation of Human Brain is impossible. I couldn’t read any of the text of the great books shown and the endless commentator got on my nerves. Sure, the brain makes Art but texts and discourse about the brain do not make Art.

In all the Biennale was something of a revelation and seductive because of its fluidity and emphasizes on many marginal artists, mostly women, black ethnic and Muslim. But still disappointing because as one of my friends and critic said: “Where is the new Picasso?” Yeah, Where? Where is Robert Rauschenberg? Where are the new greats of today? Are there any?

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