The latest edition of the most significant and oldest art event in the world, the 2009 Venice biennale, felt smoothly dressed, well mannered and intelligent if somewhat low on winning eccentricities or blinding flashes of genius.

venice 2009

See our highlights from the Venice Biennale
In director Daniel Birnbaum’s catch-all exhibition, Making Worlds, spread across the Italian Pavilion and the Arsenale, there was much high quality work by well-regarded artists – from hip young New Yorker conceptualists Guyton/Walker’s painting installation to Wolfgang Tillman’s reliably brilliant photographic experiments – but few surprises.
Within the Giardini, at the British pavilion Steve McQueen’s film of the park in winter with its smattering of lost mutts, cruising men and wreathes of mist was pleasingly poetic, if plodding. It was Bruce Nauman’s immaculately curated retrospective in the American Pavilion (and spread out over two other spaces within the city) that picked up this year’s Golden Lion, though Danish-Norwegian art duo Elmgreen & Dragset created the biggest buzz at the Nordic pavilion (pictured top), for which they received a special gong at the prizegiving. In a send-up of artworld foibles, the double pavilions were transformed into two fictional homes – one a family residence left in the wake of a Bergmanesque drama, and the other the sleek modernist pad of a wealthy gay playboy with a lavish taste in art, design and gigolos, whose corpse was to be found floating in the pool outside.

nordic pavillion

See and read more about the Danish and Nordic pavillions
Of the off-site activities, real life super collector Francois Pinault’s new foundation at Punta della Dogana was a must see, with an opulent selection (Charles Ray, The Chapmans, Mike Kelley, the list just goes on and on…) from what is considered to be the finest hoard of contemporary art in the world.

venice

See and read more about the new Punta della Doganamore