Venice Art Biennale 2011

View from the Grand Canal of Fondazione Prada's new exhibition space, Ca' Corner della Regina
View from the Grand Canal of Fondazione Prada’s new exhibition space, Ca’ Corner della Regina
(Image credit: press)

The 54th Annual Venice Biennale (opens in new tab), directed by art historian and critic Bice Curiger, opened to the public last Saturday after contemporary art collectors and industry insiders enjoyed three days of previews, parties, and healthy servings of polenta with baccala.

Inside the city's former ship yard Arsenale, the crowds buzzed around Urs Fischer's three wax statues, including one burning variation of his own office chair and a portrait of his friend Rudolf Stingel.

Though not new, Christian Marclay's 'The Clock' video had every visitor transfixed with its remarkable minute by minute clips of thousands of films condensed into one 24 hour day. Another welcome rerun was Erwin Wurm's impossibly skinny 'Narrow House' which landed on a patch of green grass opposite the L'Accademia.

Though the English and Austrian pavilions made the biggest splashes in the Giardini, the newness at this Biennale was in the emergence of Middle Eastern artists such as sisters Shadia Alem and Raja Alem (Saudia Arabia), Farhad Moshiri (Iran) and Ahmed Alsoudani (Iraq).

For fashionable (and deep-pocketed) art foundations, commandeering a fresco-lined 16th century palazzo with canal views has become the preferred trend of the 21st century. Following Renzo Piano's restructuring of the Fondazione Vedova (two years ago) and Tadao Ando's touch on the Pinault Foundation's Palazzo Grassi (now celebrating its fifth birthday), Prada has said 'anch'io, per favore.' In one of the week's most anticipated events, the Milan based fashion house opened the doors to its new home in the exquisite Ca’ Corner della Regina which was stuffed with works from the Foundation’s permanent collection creating a heady mix of Lucio Fontanas, Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoors and Maurizio Cattelans along with Rem Koolhaas/OMA's design for the Foundation's headquarters in Milan which will debut in 2013

'Concetto Spaziale. La Fine di Dio (Spacial Conception. The End of God) 1963..

The inaugural exhibition documents the multiple activity of the Fondazione Prada over the years and includes landmark pieces like this work by Lucio Fontana, ’Concetto Spaziale. La Fine di Dio (Spacial Conception. The End of God) 1963..

(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

'Void Field' 1989 by Anish Kapoor

..and ’Void Field’ 1989 by Anish Kapoor

(Image credit: Attilio Maranzano)

Jonana Basconcelos' 'Contamination' installation

Just like a real growing virus, Jonana Basconcelos’ ’Contamination’ was expanded for its 2011 installation in the Pinault Foundation’s Palazzo Grassi

(Image credit: press)

Thomas Houseago's 'L'Homme Presse'

Thomas Houseago’s ’L’Homme Presse’ outside the Pinault Foundation’s Palazzo Grassi

(Image credit: press)

'Life is Beautiful' work features hundreds of knives stabbing the walls

Iranian artist Farhad Moshiri’s ’Life is Beautiful’ work features hundreds of knives stabbing the walls at the Pinault Foundation’s Palazzo Grassi

(Image credit: press)

dimly lit, low-ceilinged rooms

In the Giardini, it was Mike Nelson’s installation at the British pavillion that made the biggest splash

(Image credit: press)

disjointed set of chambers

Nelson spent 3 months turning the pavillion into a dream-like, disjointed set of chambers

(Image credit: press)

dimly lit, low-ceilinged rooms

While visitors to the British pavillion would normally walk through it’s front entrance into a high, elegant central gallery, Nelson’s installation takes you instead into a series of dimly lit, low-ceilinged rooms, which while melancholic are also exquisite

(Image credit: press)

Inspired by a 17th-century travellers' inn

Nelson took inspiration from his 2003 installation in Istanbul which was housed in the Büyük Valide Han, a vast, once-palatial 17th-century travellers’ inn that is today a crumbling warren of artisans’ workshops

(Image credit: press)

Katharina Fritsch's '6th Still Life' Installation

Katharina Fritsch’s ’6th Still Life’ Installation

(Image credit: © Katharina Fritsch / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery)

Thomas Hirschhorn's 'Crystal Resistance' installation

Thomas Hirschhorn’s ’Crystal Resistance’ installation in the Swiss Pavilion

(Image credit: Thomas Hirschhorn)

Thomas Hirschhorn's 'Crystal Resistance' installation

Thomas Hirschhorn’s ’Crystal Resistance’ installation in the Swiss Pavilion

(Image credit: Thomas Hirschhorn)

Thomas Hirschhorn's 'Crystal Resistance' installation

Thomas Hirschhorn’s ’Crystal Resistance’ installation in the Swiss Pavilion

(Image credit: Thomas Hirschhorn)

Urs Fischer's second candle sculpture, a portrait of his friend the artist Rudolf Stinge

Over at the Arsenale highlights included, ’Untitled’, Urs Fischer’s second candle sculpture, a portrait of his friend the artist Rudolf Stinge

(Image credit: Rudolf Stinge)

Urs Fischer's first wax interpretation, the 'Rape of the Sabine Wome',

Urs Fischer’s first wax interpretation, the ’Rape of the Sabine Wome’, shown at the last Biennale was installed opposite

(Image credit: press)

109 canvases

109 canvases by Venetian artist Emilio Vedova

(Image credit: Emilio Vedova)

Hotel Abchasia- table-top sculpture

Zurich based artist Andro Wekua’s ’Pink Wave Hunter’ is a series of 15 table-top sculptures of buildings in his now-destroyed home town of Sochumi, Georgia, including this one of the Hotel Abchasia


(Image credit: Images copyright Andro Wekua and Courtesy Gladstone Gallery)

'Pink Wave Hunter' (Administrative Building For Steam Navigation), 2010-2011

Andro Wekua
’Pink Wave Hunter’ (Administrative Building For Steam Navigation), 2010-2011

Wax front and steel scaffolding

(Image credit: Images copyright Andro Wekua and Courtesy Gladstone Gallery)

'Pink Wave Hunter' (Beach Restaurant Dioskuria), 2010-2011

Andro Wekua
’Pink Wave Hunter’ (Beach Restaurant Dioskuria), 2010-2011

Mixed media

(Image credit: Images copyright Andro Wekua and Courtesy Gladstone Gallery)

'Pink Wave Hunter' (Hotel Ritsa), 2010-2011

Andro Wekua
’Pink Wave Hunter’ (Hotel Ritsa), 2010-2011

Thermoplastic foam, aluminum sheet and acrylic paint

(Image credit: Images copyright Andro Wekua and Courtesy Gladstone Gallery)

'Pink Wave Hunter' (Government Building), 2010-2011

Andro Wekua
’Pink Wave Hunter’ (Government Building), 2010-2011

Cast bronze, steel scaffolding and concrete

(Image credit: Images copyright Andro Wekua and Courtesy Gladstone Gallery)

Pink Wave Hunter (Neighbour's House), 2010-2011 Cast aluminum, thermoplastic foam and acrylic paint

Andro Wekua
Pink Wave Hunter (Neighbour’s House), 2010-2011

Cast aluminum, thermoplastic foam and acrylic paint

(Image credit: Images copyright Andro Wekua and Courtesy Gladstone Gallery)

Anselm Kiefer's 'Salt of the Earth' installation

Anselm Kiefer’s ’Salt of the Earth’ installation in the Magazzino del Sale, a 16th century warehouse recently restored for the Fondazione Vedova by Renzo Piano

(Image credit: Renzo Piano)

homas Hirschhorn's 'Crystal Resistance' installation

Anselm Kiefer’s ’Salt of the Earth’ installation

(Image credit: Anselm Kiefe)

Gaetano Pesce's 'L'Italia in Croce'

Gaetano Pesce’s ’L’Italia in Croce’ in the Italian Pavilion

(Image credit: Gaetano Pesce)

Gaetano Pesce's 'Senzafine Unica' chairs

Gaetano Pesce’s ’Senzafine Unica’ chairs, produced by Meritalia

(Image credit: Gaetano Pesce)

70,000 square meter space, a former refrigerator factory built in 1953

Performance artist Marina Abramovic announced plans to create the Marina Abramovic Community Center Obod Cetinje (MACCOC) in Montenegro which will cultivate music, film, performance art, dance and theater. Overseen by Abramovic, the center will be housed in this gigantic 70,000 square meter space, a former refrigerator factory built in 1953

(Image credit: press)

medicine box and instruction manual

The exhibit catalog for the ’I Miss My Enemies’ show (organized by the Palaces of the Russian Museum Restoration Fund) took the form of a medicine box and instruction manual

(Image credit: press)

Robert Irwin's 'Green River' light installation

Robert Irwin’s ’Green River’ light installation featured at the Venice in Venice exhibition at Palazzo Contarini dagli Scrigni

(Image credit: Robert Irwin)

An untitled sculpture by Robert Irwin

An untitled sculpture by Robert Irwin at the Venice in Venice exhibit

(Image credit: Robert Irwin)

An original 1939 menu listing the services

An original 1939 menu listing the services (and prices) of the brothel formerly found at Bar Ai Specchieri near Piazza San Marco

(Image credit: press)

Ukrainian artist Oksana Mas’ ’Post-vs-Proto-Rennaisance’ wooden egg installation inside Venice’s Chiesa di San Fantin

Ukrainian artist Oksana Mas’ ’Post-vs-Proto-Rennaisance’ wooden egg installation inside Venice’s Chiesa di San Fantin

(Image credit: Yang Maoyuan)

An installation by Yang Maoyuan in the Chinese Pavilion

An installation by Yang Maoyuan in the Chinese Pavilion

(Image credit: Oksana Mas)

'Light and Darkness of Symbols' installation

Serbian artist Dragoljub Raša Todosijević won UniCredit’s Venice Award with ’Light and Darkness of Symbols’, a three part installation of his previous works

(Image credit: Dragoljub Raša Todosijević)

Work by Serbian artist Dragoljub Raša Todosijević

Work by Serbian artist Dragoljub Raša Todosijević

(Image credit: Dragoljub Raša Todosijević)

Red swastika

Work by Serbian artist Dragoljub Raša Todosijević

(Image credit: Dragoljub Raša Todosijević)

Fortuny Floor with Giuseppe Penone's 'Palpebra', 1998, Chen Zhen's 'Crystal Landscape of Inner Body, 2000' and a clay Janus Head, 2nd c. BC

Work by Serbian artist Dragoljub Raša Todosijević

(Image credit: press)

View of the restored workshop of Mariano Fortuny at 'Tra: Edge of Becoming'

View of the restored workshop of Mariano Fortuny at ’Tra: Edge of Becoming’

(Image credit: press)

An interior shot (looking upwards) of Mike and Doug Starn's 50 foot tall Big Bambu installation

An interior shot (looking upwards) of Mike and Doug Starn’s 50 foot tall Big Bambu installation

(Image credit: Mike and Doug )

Artists Mike and Doug Starn

Artists Mike and Doug Starn took the first steps along the perimeter of their Big Bambu sculpture, which was installed next door to the Peggy Guggenheim collection

(Image credit: Mike and Doug Starn )

JJ Martin