Artistic vision: The Venice Biennale and Pinault’s new Punta della Dogana

Punta-della-Dogana_Elicottero_4321_nologoIt may be that any Biennial, having a Director whose job is like herding cats (the curators of the national pavillions), is by definition a mixed bag, structurally unable to express any coherent artistic vision. That’s what I came away with after visiting this year’s Venice Biennale, “Making Worlds”, directed by Daniel Birnbaum; in addition to the unpleasant feeling that most of it was looking backwards, instead of straight ahead into the future.

The following day, I visited François Pinault’s new contemporary art center at the Punta della Dogana (pictured), which hosts half of an exhibition titled “Mapping the Studio” (with the rest at Palazzo Grassi). It was everything that the Biennale wasn’t. Instead of the decaying infrastructure of the Giardini and the Arsenale, a freshly restored vast and luminous space, bearing the marks of Tadao Ando’s loving care (and, of course, ample funding by Monsieur Pinault). Instead of a cacophony of voices, a clear curatorial point of view: sure, a provocative, controversy-seeking one at times, but nevertheless an artistic vision, a show of teamwork between the collector and his curators, Gingeras and Bonami. A cross-section of what’s at the edge of artistic creation today, mediated by a discerning taste. Even the works from the 1970s and 1980s seemed fresh and contemporary.

Walking through the Biennale felt like work; visiting the (admittedly much smaller) Punta della Dogana was sheer pleasure.

And how was it for you?

2 thoughts on “Artistic vision: The Venice Biennale and Pinault’s new Punta della Dogana

  1. lack of coherence is also the first impression i got from visiting the biennale the other day and yesterday. i think that’s because the theme of the exhibit, making worlds, is far too broad, and even self-evident: an artist is always making a new, potential world with each work he creates… it’s a huge umbrella-expression that can contain virtually everything. birnbaum’s previous, major show, the triennale in turin (whose catalogs i translated), was much clearer and more sharply focused – the general theme was melancholy – and i enjoyed it very much.
    however, i think there were some great pavillions, the italian being one of the best, and i was delighted to find grazia toderi’s awesome visionary urban video, manfredi beninati’s collage, and giacomo costa’s backlit panels entitled “secret garden” – they’re my favorite emerging italian artists, along with maria teresa sartori (i missed her experimental videos on the connections between language and music very much). i’ve also seen some great foreign artists, the egyptian adel siwi and the swedish nathalie djurberg (who is, incidentally, represented by milan’s giò marconi gallery), among others.
    i missed on the pinault show, though, and i regret it – i might have visited it if i had had more time. i have been working for bonami and the sandretto re rebaudengo foundation for five years now: he’s a very perceptive curator who always comes up with something engaging and relevant for the present time.
    as for the old (biennale) venues vs. the ‘white cube’ of the punta della dogana art center, it’s an old dispute. i tend to think that a space so redolent and full of patina as the arsenale might distract the viewer from the actual works of arts – and is therefore best suited for videos, or environmental works/installations that have a really strong visual impact and are designed especially for those spaces.
    when walking through the arsenale, i often find myself more attracted to the decadent beauty of the architecture than by the works contained in it 🙂

  2. Pingback: ILLUMInazioni: 2011 Venice Biennale lives up to expectations « Live from Planet Paola

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