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Photography Jenny Held
Written by Guest Blogger Jenny Held
or the last few days of May, the art world made its biannual pilgrimage to the glimmering city of Venice for the preview of the 55th Biennale di Venezia, a show that is widely considered to embody the global pulse of contemporary art.
This year’s central exhibit, “The Encyclopedic Palace,” is ambitiously curated by Massimiliano Gioni, an associate director of the New Museum in New York. The exhibit’s namesake and inspiration lie in the never-actualized concept of self-taught Italian artist, Marino Auriti, of a grand museum that would house all of mankind’s greatest achievements. At the most basic level of interpretation, Gioni traces this concept to present a comprehensive exhibit of artwork, collections of objects and artifacts that explore the relationship between humans, art, and the outside world. Gioni explains, “Today, as we grapple with a flood of information, such attempts to structure knowledge into all-inclusive systems seem even more necessary and even more desperate.”
Critically acclaimed artists such as Cindy Sherman, Bruce Nauman, and Richard Serra are present, but it is the oddball works of “outsider artists” that are most memorable. Creepy, lifelike plaster sculptures by John DeAndrea make way for pornographic doodles by Russian teen, Evgenji Kozlov. Works by Karl Jung and Hilma Af Klint tackle the mystical realm, while work reflecting obsessive compulsion is seen through the 387 tiny houses built by an Austrian clerk named Peter Fritz (later discovered in a junk shop by Oliver Elser and Oliver Croy).
Beyond the main exhibit are 88 national pavilions which showcase the “best” art that each participating country has to offer. The more visually stimulating pavilions include Canada, featuring newcomer Shary Boyle’s projected images on sculptures of the female form; New Zealand, featuring thought provoking sculptures of fluorescent light encased within everyday objects by Bill Culbert; Latin America, showcasing a colorful installation of pigments and spices by Sonia Falcone; Germany (who shook things up by swapping pavilions with France) with an installation by Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei created with 886 wooden stools; and Russia, with a participatory conceptual installation by Vadim Zakharov, in which gold coins rain down on umbrella clad female visitors (inspired by the Greek myth of Danaë).
The central exhibit and select national pavilions are open to the public now through November 24th, just be sure to wear some seriously comfortable shoes.