Every two years since its inauguration in 1895, the Venice Biennale and collateral events around the city offer inspiring installations and exhibitions in celebration of contemporary art and culture. With an attendance today of over 500,000 visitors, the International Art Exhibition is a must-see for art enthusiasts around the globe. From the Giardini and Arsenale to the satellite venues beyond, check out our highlights below:
Martin Puryear represents the United States at this year’s Venice Biennale. Liberty / Libertà, features a series of new sculptures exploring themes of freedom, justice and social responsibility. A highlight of Puryear’s exhibition is Swallowed Sun (Monstrance and Volute), a monumental site-specific latticework screen installed in the forecourt of the pavilion.
Swinguerra, on view at the Brazilian Pavilion, celebrates swinguerra, a dance phenomenon popular in the city of Recife, where youth groups engage in annual dance battles. Artists Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca’s two-channel video installation and accompanying photographs focus on the powerful expressions of popular culture in contemporary Brazil, and their complex relationship with international and local traditions.
The Korean Pavilion, curated by Hyunjin Kim, showcases the work of three women artists, siren eun young jung, Jane Jin Kaisen, and Hwayeon Nam, who engage with representations of gender while examining the history surrounding the modernization of Korea and East Asia.
Contemporary Chinese artist Liu Wei’s Microworld, 2018, is on display in the Arsenale at the 58th Venice Biennale. Composed of various aluminum spheres and colorful convex and concave shapes, this sculptural installation reflects the artist’s long-standing interest in how our perceptions are adapted and manipulated by social, environmental, technological, and personal influences.
Korean-American artist Anicka Yi’s installation Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble), on view in the Arsenale, explores the relationship between the organic and the synthetic, science and fiction, human and non-human. Comprised of large kelp-based glowing lanterns, within which animatronic insects flutter about, the installation recalls images of skin, organs, even embryos, drawing a connection between the origin of human life and the future of artificial intelligence.
Ghana’s first national pavilion is a triumphant tribute to the country’s deep cultural roots through six of its beloved artists: Felicia Abban, John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Ibrahim Mahama, and Selasi Awusi Sosu. Ghana Freedom, titled after a song by Ghanaian musician E.T Mensah, explores how freedom has evolved since the country gained independence in 1957 under President Kwame Nkrumah, a great supporter of the arts. Designed by celebrated architect David Adjaye, the pavilion brings material and traditional architecture from Ghana to Venice. Based on a West African vernacular, the classical ‘earth architecture’ of the Sahel, the pavilion reflects the historical and cultural fabric of the nation.
The Lithuanian Pavilion is the work of theater director Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, playwright Vaiva Grainytė, and composer Lina Lapelytė, Sun & Sea (Marina), a durational opera-performance, it tells a chilling tale about climate change through the guise of a day at the beach. From the mezzanine level of a warehouse, viewers look down upon a beach scene where performers of all ages splay out on towels, playing with their iPhones, reading magazines, and one by one, singing about a world very similar to our own, full of minor inconveniences. While the scenes and songs appear innocent initially, it is only after observing for a while that we realize that this is how the world ends: not with a bang, but with resignation, self-absorption, and laziness.
Punta Della Dogana
Luogo e Segni, on view at Punta della Dogana, is titled after a 1976 painting by Carol Rama that is also included in the exhibition. Curated by Martin Bethenod, Director of Palazzo Grassi – Punta della Dogana, and Mouna Mekouar, independent curator, the show features the work of thirty six artist who, through their work, establish a particular relationship with their urban, social, political, historical, and intellectual settings.
Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore
HUMAN, a solo-exhibition of recent and new works by Irish-born artist Sean Scully, is on view at the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore. The show, curated by Javier Molins, invites viewers to contemplate the relationship between the contemporary artist and the historic venue. Responding to the Renaissance architecture and vast collection of illuminated manuscripts, Scully transforms the 16th century Benedictine church, and adjacent buildings and gardens into a visual and spiritual meditation on paper and sculpture. Pictured is Opulent Ascension, Scully’s tallest work to date, constructed from stacked frames wrapped in felt in the central basilica.