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Will Gompertz see 2019 Venice Art Biennale ★★★ ☆☆

This week's invitation "Private View" by the Venice Biennale (which opens today) was a weird affair. It was like getting into the middle of a Wes Anderson movie. The place raised with characters. Artists, posers, dealers, curators, billionaires, bureaucrats, counterfeiters, freeloaders, snobs, journalists, pseudors, hustlers and narcissists, all settle into small spaces and noisy halls to catch a glimpse of a box's contemporary contemporary art. They are not a hip mass that you can find at Coachella or XJAZZ in Berlin. They are more bulky than glamorous. Art is a common interest but not what really binds them. Money and status are the currencies that count. You do not need both, but you are sure that hell needs one or the other. This is once every other yearly event that was founded in 1 895 to promote Italian art before turning into an international exhibition with countries that compete to be the best in the show. Mussolini is locked in it in the 1930s as a way to promote his fascist agenda and leaves a weakly uncomfortable nationism fly around what is now a global contemporary art event based on nation states. No one has time for anything more than a quickie. Take a look, take a picture, post to Instagram, continue. It is relentless. Image copyrightMarton Monus CaptionsVisitors who experience the Japanese pavilion, where recorders off the ceiling are played by an algorithm The rooms that serve free alcohol always seem to be most popular. Or those who have…

 Coming to Venice Graphics

This week’s invitation “Private View” by the Venice Biennale (which opens today) was a weird affair. It was like getting into the middle of a Wes Anderson movie.

The place raised with characters. Artists, posers, dealers, curators, billionaires, bureaucrats, counterfeiters, freeloaders, snobs, journalists, pseudors, hustlers and narcissists, all settle into small spaces and noisy halls to catch a glimpse of a box’s contemporary contemporary art.

They are not a hip mass that you can find at Coachella or XJAZZ in Berlin. They are more bulky than glamorous. Art is a common interest but not what really binds them. Money and status are the currencies that count. You do not need both, but you are sure that hell needs one or the other.

This is once every other yearly event that was founded in 1

895 to promote Italian art before turning into an international exhibition with countries that compete to be the best in the show.

Mussolini is locked in it in the 1930s as a way to promote his fascist agenda and leaves a weakly uncomfortable nationism fly around what is now a global contemporary art event based on nation states.

No one has time for anything more than a quickie.

Take a look, take a picture, post to Instagram, continue.

It is relentless.

Image copyright
Marton Monus

Captions

Visitors who experience the Japanese pavilion, where recorders off the ceiling are played by an algorithm

The rooms that serve free alcohol always seem to be most popular. Or those who have suddenly become “hot” as words of some “amazing jobs !!!!!” spreads like a virus through Giardini Gardens, which acts as Biennal’s picturesque base camp.

Anxiety levels are at the fever height, driven by double expressos and a FOMO so profound that you can see the terror lurking in the eyes behind every pair of Tom Ford sunglasses.

The scale of the event is staggering.

There are 90 national pavilions, each with its own tailor-made exhibition with the work of an artist or artist, who is tasked with representing the host country.

Image copyright
Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys

Captions

With artists Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, the Belgian pavilion says that it offers an “anthropological experience reminiscent of an old Europe”

Added to this is a colossal one-time exhibition spanning two massive buildings, which this year has been compiled by a curator named Ralph Rugoff, whose day job runs the Hayward Gallery at London’s Southbank.

There’s more.

As if the above was not enough to satisfy even the most insatiable art lover, there are many other off-site shows by those who are not invited to participate in the main event: a kind of Venice Biennial Fringe, I guess.

No sensual person needs this much art, it is absolutely overwhelming, while paradoxically, it is often completely undermining. If the Venice Biennale was a climbing rose, it would have been hacked back to manageable proportions long ago.

But that’s not it.

It is a hugely successful tourist attraction, where hundreds of thousands of tourists will invest over the long hot summer and look for meaning, guidance and some intellectual nourishment in our ever secular, shared, complicated world.

Will they find what they are looking for in the 2019 edition? You hope so. I did.

Not in the German pavilion, which contains a hard post-industrial installation so serious, it is inadvertently fun.

Image copyright
Jasper Kettner

Caption

The German Pavilion says it explores possibilities for survival, resistance and solidarity

Unlike the French pavilion opposite, which is hilarious with purpose.

The laureate winner Laure Prouvost has created a surreal cave full of love, humor and ebullient eccentricity. If the Venice Biennale is an amusement park of varieties, Prouvost’s invitation to climb into an octopus’s stomach is its star attraction.

Entering through a narrow back door and entering an excavated basement, the artist and her gang dug excited pranksters to enter the locked pavilion in January, which has been thinned from the bed of Venice’s Grand Canal. It’s their story anyway. And as a confirmation, they have presented their evidence in the room above in the shady form of dredged detritus as old plastic bottles, rust cans and stinking tongs.

The floor is light blue with a transparent, rubber-bound surface that allows you to tip yourself through dirty channel water. Join the flow and it eventually leads you into the artist’s eight glued squid, which is very dark place.

Image copyright
Giacomo Cosua

Captions

Laure Prouvost’s Deep View Blue Surrounding You at the French Pavilion are tipped to win the Golden Lion

An elegant movie plays among scattered stone stools placed on a spongy carpet that really feels like it can be fed on an octopus’s stomach.

It’s worrying. And nuts: an eccentric but sincere celebration of the wonderful gift that is the human imagination.

It may well win the top prize.

That would get my vote.

But there is some strong competition. The Lithuanians have built an off-beach beach complete with sunbathers that you watch as they break into operative singing.

Image copyright
Andrej Vasilenko

Captions

The Lithuanian pavilion has been transformed into a sun and sea bath, where participants give a contemporary opera performance

And there were a lot of chats about the Philippine pavilion, which has an archipelago of glass platforms where you go and look down on household items arranged under your feet. It was good, but rather as the glass wall hardly pushes it.

On the other hand, the Ghanaian pavilion is excellent and will give Prouvost’s water world a run for its money in the award of the coveted Golden Lion for the best national pavilion.

It has been designed by architect David Adjaye, who has created a series of galleries of roughly finished curved walls, which hang some top-notch art. A group of El Anatsui famous bottle wall walls fill a space; Behind them is a three-screen tear-inducing film by John Akomfrah addressing climate change, imperialism and animal abuse. And best of all, in the circular center, are nine portraits of pictured subjects by the talented Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (who was the Turner Prize runner in 2013 year Laure Prouvost won).
Image copyright
David Levene

Captions

One of the series of portrayed portraits, Just Amongst Ourselves (2019) painted Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and featured on Ghana Pavilion

Other highlights are Michael Armage’s paintings (and sketches), which are on the main exhibition, as well as those of rising star Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

Both are well worth seeking out, as well as Arthur Jaffa: three to see among a plethora of semi-baked mechanical contrasts and boring installations made by various artists who might be collectively known as Phil Hall.
Image copyright
ANDREA AVEZZU

Captions

Michael Armitage, who weaves several stories in his work, is one of the 79 artists included in curator Ralph Rugoff’s exhibition

Image copyright
Francesco Galli Viterbo

Captions

The Nigerian-born artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby draws on political and personal references to create frequent layered figurative compositions

Another tip, you should decide to take on the Venice Biennial Challenge.

Take the time to see the Edmund de Waals installation at the Jewish Museum (about 30 minutes from the Giardini Gardens by Vaporetto) in Campo Ghetto Novo. The pot and author of the best-selling memoir Hare with the Amber Eyes has made a delicate and thought-provoking group of new work and placed it with sensitivity around the seventeenth-century synagogue Canton Scuola.

Image copyright
Edmund de Waal

Image caption

The author and ceramist Edmund de Waal created works of porcelain, marble and gold to reflect the literary and musical heritage of the Jewish ghetto

At the end of your marathon art, you are ready to finish with a couple of great Bellinis. The drink that is, not the painter.

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Faela