Friday, September 9, 2011

La Biennale di Venezia

So, we actually got out to Venice at the end of May for the opening of the Biennale and we’ve had some incredible experiences so far.  We’ll make sure to back track as best we can so we hit all the highlights, but we first wanted to tell you a about what the Biennale is all about...

La Biennale: It is the preeminent contemporary art festival in the world.    Considered the “Olympics of the art world.”  The first Biennale was held back in 1895 and is on display every 2 years from June to December.  Each country selects an artist to represent their country in hopes of not only  impressing the discerning art critics and media of the world, but also to win the prestigious "Golden Lion Award." The award itself is selected on by a jury of five members from all over the world who over the course of the opening few days (known as the Vernissage) tour each of the 84 national exhibits until the winner is agreed upon.  The Biennale has a constant flow of visitors during the extent of the exhibit, bringing in roughly 300,000 art fans from all over the world.  

The Giardini: The Gardens of Venice are a secret haven that most visitors never get a chance to see unless they are aware of the Biennale.  Most people get so caught up in the touristy Venice attractions (canals, St.Marks Square, Murano, etc.) that they never venture to this unique spot.  It's the only section of Venice that has trees/parks and it also houses 30 of the national pavilions for the Biennale.  It resembles an Olympic Village of sorts with each nations pavilion having a very distinct architectural style.  In most cases you can tell which country the pavilion represents just by the outside aesthetic (The American pavilion resembles Jefferson's Monitcello, Russia's pavilion has that very recognizable Russian Renaissance feel, whereas Sweden looks like it came out of an Ikea catalog).

American Artists: There is quite a process that goes into being selected to represent the United States at the Biennale.  Museums from around the country create a proposal for their vision of the American exhibit that they present to the US State Department.  After a thorough review process, one museum is selected to collaborate with the artist of their choice in representing the American entry.  Over the years American artists including Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein had their work featured.  
The 2011 American entry was a very unique one to be a part of for a variety of reasons...

  • The museum selected (Indianapolis Museum of Art- IMA) is not from a major art hub such as New York, Chicago or LA, which is generally where the entries have been selected from in the past. 
  • It is the first time the US decided on an artistic collaborative when it selected the couple Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla.  
  • Calzadilla, being originally from Cuba, was the first non US born artist selected.
  • This years concept includes performance art, which had never been done before in the more than hundred year history of the Biennale. 

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