Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Return to Venice - Part II

Day 2 was all about the Giardini, the Giardini is where the permanent natinal pavilions are. Navin's Paradiso di Navin was right at the entrance, in the a paradise of calm (more on this later).

I have formed a system in my Biennale wanders, for the Giardini, I prefer to start at the Grand Pavilion which is the International Exhibition curated by a certain curator. This year Bice Curiger under the title of Illuminations. I then make my way around the country pavilions. Upon entering the Grand Pavilion, what struck me hard was the Colombo lazer beam room, genius especially in its distortion of physical space, kind of sci-fi. Jack Goldstein's video and the big big room of Tintoretto. Three Tintorettos were on loan to the Biennale by Venice, a classical painter of light in a sea of contemporary.

Strange especially when you look around and realise that there are pigeons everywhere. For a moment you think the pigeons might move and you think, yeah, they invaded the Pavilion, then you realise that they are dead and stuffed and Maurizio Cattelan's trick.

They are a menace yet you cannot avoid them as you make your way through the Pavilion. I loved how they were on the pipes and loomed above Jakob ahd his invisible installation (again). My faves were the Polke paintings the Fischli and Weiss installation. There was an interesting room of coloured panels by a young artist but to me it was so obviously about light and colour that it was a bit much though entertaining. I suppose with a theme like Illuminations, one cannot avoid the discussion fo national dialogue, space, borders and literaly, light, even if after a bit of time it seems a bit cliched.

Fischli and Weiss

Susan and Lara where my lunch dates at Da Franz, Andrew Glenn and Jonathan were around too. Another handy Giardini favourite, great food, a twist on the Venetian faves. Literally next door to the Giardini. I had my bacala fix and venetian bigoli with anchovy paste. To die for.

We went to all almost all the countries in the Giardini, except for England, Germany, Japan and Israel. I wanted to kick myself for not going to see England the day before as it transpired that Mike Nelson's installation created queues hours and hours long. High lights were the Nordic Pavillion and USA.

America's Gloria by Allora and Calzadilla was a glorious celebration of what is America with an undertone of darkness and criticism of authority and recent policy. Sponsored by Hugo Boss (this was very clear, the fashion invasion, more on this later too)

singing ATM

I also liked Korea and France. It was how they really seemed to "capture" a nation, their nation, or at least what the nation appears to be, their obsessions. There was no denying the monochromatic nihilistic world of France's Boltanski. Nor the pop subversiveness of Korea's Lee Yangboek. Sweden was serene and stunning and included Pia's Borderless Bastard that was sprinkled around other pavilions a very clever and "dialogue" between a national artist and Pia's statues (recorded on audio guides).



The Swiss pavilion made me so uncomfortable and was just so in your face it was THE low on my Pavilion list though I can appreciate the effort. It just seemed a bit ridiculous that a country that is neutral who should not engage much should go out of its way to make such a grand (obnoxious) statement about the "Crystal of Resistance" that forms in countries that have been ravaged by both man-made (political) and natural disasters. Sure it was hopeful, after all, crystals are positive and light and beautiful and they form as a result of a struggle, however, it was slightly self-riteous and terribly voyeuristic when your nation does not actually engage but is a safe haven. Perhaps Hirschorn was trying to criticise his country's position, not sure but I know that cottonbud kryptonite and bits of glass poking from chairs and bubble wrap tried a bit too hard.

A corporate space but a very nice one was Fabrizio Plessi's Plessimari supported by LVMH. I had gone to Plessi's Guidecca studio two years ago with Arnold Can and Yves Carcel and Fabrizio showed us the blueprint. The blueprint was now alive iwht tilted life sized boes with "water" projections. Peaceful yet dramatic and very beautiful though definitely somethin that could never be commissioned by a nation unless that nation was a fashion conglomorate like LVMH.

Going through the Giardini with Lara and Susan, joined later by Norbert and Juanita meant that we properly did the Giardni, I ususally take my time but in this case, we saw almost everything. Even popping over to James Putnam's collaboratoral event next door.

Susan and Lara

By this time my legs wanted to drop and all I wanted to do was sleep, we had an apteritivo at Bauer and Susan made me promise to meet her at the White Cube party. I remember the jetlag that day was so unbeareable, I skipped the Pinault party and made a fuss about getting back up to go to the Monaco Hotel for Christian Marclay's party by the White Cube. I finally did and it was worth it.

The ballroom of the Monaco is stunning. Caught up with Masoud and was introduced to Ole Schereen, the star architect and awesome guy. He had great stories about living in Bangkok in the late nineties, right after our economic crash. Sadly I missed the right night screening of Marclay's The Clock, the 23.59 hrs. was apparently amazing.

Me at the Monaca in thatwasBoat's toile

Arnold then rescued us to take us to Maurizio Cattelan's Toilet Paper (his new mag) party, it was a rave, in a school in the Isola San Savorola. Far and could have been cool if we got there earlier. So Arnold rescued us again with his boat and we landed at the Bauer, us and a few buckets of champers with the motley crew we collected plus Gabe, Xerxes, Erika and Julian Solmes.

Arnold and Ole
Lara, Erika and Hannah

Oh Venice, how we love you. Especially when there is space for us to sit on the Bauer terrace after a day like that one.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Return to Venice - Part I

My return to Venice for the opening week of 2011 Biennale di Venezia is also a return from blog oblivion and marks 2 years since my first posts which were also about Venice. In fact it was what I saw in Venice which inspired me to document and share so it's rather nice to go back.

ILLUMInations is my 4th Biennale, as usual, Venice was wonderful, always nice to catch up with old friends, make new ones, return to my fave restaurants and obviously see and experience an abundance of art (and go to parties too of course).

The first day was full on, to pick up my press pass meant going through the Arsenale, if it was not for my lunch date at Corte Sconta with Hannah Bhuiya I would have taken the time to indulge in the empty corridors and immerse myself in the James Turrell room without queuing (the first day is the pre preview). I did manage to get a glimpse though of pieces that I would go back and gawk over. In particular, the Birdhead piece and the Bruno Jakob invisible painting. What I did not know then that I know now is that I also got to see GELITIN pre-performance . . .
Bruno Jakob

Corte Sconta is worth it, especially as it was my first day and they say you should take it gently, it was so nice to catch up with Hannah, who was my Biennale buddy 2 years ago at Casa Caraccia. Mega highly recommended, we loved Corte Sconta (and the fact that it is a stone's throw from the Arsenale).

After an amazing lunch of seafood that was a surprise from beginning to end we went to the very new Fondazione Prada. In true Prada style, it felt effortless, thoughtful and was jam packed with some amazing works. My faves were the Arte Povera rooms (amazing), the OMA installation and the Louise Borgeouis room in the back. Amazing stuff, I love how they kept it raw and on that day, you could still smell the fresh paint as it was the first unveiling.

OMA miniature mock up new Prada space in Rome

Louise Borgeouis

We had the bright idea of taking a vaporetto to the Palazzo Grassi but after a 30 minute wait we were informed that they were on strike, so on foot we went. The Grassi is the antithesis of Prada Foundation, whereas Prada is subtle and breathtaking, the Grassi is brash, glossy and breathtaking. It is the collection of Francois Pinault (PPR, owns Gucci and many others), the character of the collection is very different, bigger and more colourful, not so much to my taste but glad I got to see it. I loved how the show mixed old and new, very new, my faves were the Matthew Day Jackson room, a young French artist who made me think I was in a vampire flick with a clever distorted version of a dark Venice, Cyprien Gaillard's projection (so much better than his beer label photos at the Grand Pavilion), and Pennone leaf room. I spent a bit of time at the Grassi two years ago and had a real look at the collection which apart from about 40% remained the same. The main installation was fun, colourful and really did lay its roots all around the palazzo but I found it slightly obviuos especially when there was a giant pink Koons dog staring at it. I suppose there is a market in that.

Then we made a dash to my hotel, to freshen up a bit before the night, next stop was for San Giorgio island for Anish Kapoor. The Isola di San Giorgio and its cathedral is usually the home of the Prada Foundation except as you can see above, Prada has found a permanent home. The church was thus given to Anish Kapoor for his site-specific installation. Hannah and I bumped into Pierluigi Tazzi, the curator who has also published several books on Kapoor. It was not our imagination that the turbine and the wind was not yet "perfect" the moving tunnel which was to look like a vortex was still adjusting, he confirmed this. You still get the "picture" but it would have been good if we went back when there were less people and they get the wind level right. Luckily, my camera caught it but unfortunately, has since been erased (weird).

the only picture left from first night :( en route to San Giorgio

We continued to sunset drinks at the Bauer terrace where I met Jefferson Hack who is lovely and remet Virginia Damsta of Riflemaker. Very much the London crew. From there we went to Angela Missoni's boat for a candlelit dinner. I loved Florian, one part of GELITIN, I would see more of him later in Some Like it Hot. After seeing that performance I am adamant that they must come to Thailand. From there we went to the Bauer, first night at the Bauer . . .where most nights would end up as per every Biennale I have been to so far.

A small note, my hotel was right around the corner near San Marco Square, the location was so perfect I will not ever stay anywhere else again even though Dorsoduro is terribly charming, San Marco/Castello is extremely strategic.

Day one over, 5 more to go!