I have just returned from Venice and a few days wandering around the 59th art biennale. The last time I got to go was back in 2017. I went in November 2019 only to be stopped by the dramatic floods caused by the Aqua Alta and then Covid stopped the 2021 shows.
Overall it was of course a spectacle and always worth going to but I can’t help feeling a bit underwhelmed by the main show at Arsenale this year. My real pleasures this time were the off site installations we lit upon as we wandered the streets.
I did not know much about modern art until I started my MA and I still know very little. So, discovering Antoni Clave in the Portuguese pavilion in Palazzo Franchetti was a bonus. I literally was stopped in my tracks by the first room, dominated by one of his tapestries. Wonderful.
The obvious ones were Anselm Kiefer at the Doges Palace and Anish Kapoor at the Gallerie Accademia. The former was breathtaking, utterly bleak and just quite frankly monumental. The latter riled because I have a problem with the concept of ringfencing Colour and denying the artist community the chance to use the extraordinary black he has access to. Because I am registered disabled I was allowed into both exhibitions for free. Kiefer benefitted because I bought the catalogue. Kapoor did not. Have a look at this site for more on this point.
Finally I saw Marlene Dumas at Palazzo Grazzi. What a venue. What a show. The paintings were spare but had such impact. I lingered over an abstracted landscape evoking the artist’s mother’s funeral. It made me cry because it was obviously so laden with love and desolation.
Other notable mentions included the Mozambique pavilion, Planet B, a show curated by Nicholas Bourriaud and the Ukrainian Fountain of Exhaustion.
I have come away with lots of ideas and plans as I usually do. The challenge is to actually do something about it all now!