Looking Forward to Venice Biennale 2017 - Inside the Biggest Art Exhibition in the World

January 12, 2017

One of the things that will make this year better than the previous is the fact that La Biennale di Venezia will return for the 57th time. Also known as the Venice Biennale 2017, the world’s biggest international art exhibition is slowly coming together as the participants are being revealed. After focusing on the different aspects of the world we live in under the guidance of Okwui Enwezor in 2015, the forthcoming edition is left in the hands of Christine Macel, ”a curator committed to emphasizing the important role artists play in inventing their own universes and in reverberating generous vitality towards the world we live in,” in the words of President Paolo Baratta. The Mostra di Arte will aim to foster more dialogue between the visitors and the artworks on display, through a program of meetings specifically designed in time and space for the occasion. But these are just some of the aspects of the grand idea behind the Venice Biennale 2017.

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Venice Biennale Director Paolo Baratta and curator Christine Macel. Photo by Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

Viva Arte Viva ! The Theme of Venice Biennale 2017

In September 2016, La Biennale di Venezia curator Christine Macel announced the title of the 57th exhibition - Viva Arte Viva, describing art as the most precious part of the human being, at a time when humanism is being seriously jeopardized. In its own right, art represents the ideal place for reflection, individual expression, freedom and fundamental questions, particularly in a world full of conflicts and jolts. ”Viva Arte Viva is also an exclamation, an expression of the passion for art and for the state of the artist. Viva Arte Viva is a Biennale designed with the artists, by the artists and for the artists. It deals with the forms they propose, the questions they pose, the practices they develop and the forms of life they choose,”, said Christine Macel in her statement.

As such, the Viva Arte Viva concept looks to illicit and draw attention to the prospective energy of young artists, while at the same time rediscovering those who passed away too early or those who are unknown to the public despite the importance of their works. This will span various generations of creatives while exploring specific cultural areas such as Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Particular focus will be given to Europe and its eastern boundaries, and to Russia as well.

Christine Macel presents Art of the 57th Venice Biennale International Exhibition 2017

Towards the New Humanism

Thus, the Venice Biennale 2017 will evolve in a sequence of pavilions, or Trans-pavilions, which gather artists of all generations and origins, rooms and Stanze. Each pavilion is conceived as “a chapter of a book” as they follow one another - from the “Pavilion of artists and books” to the “Pavilion of time and infinity”, the show aims to tell an engaging and sometimes paradoxical story concerning the complexity of the world and the variety of positions and practices. But apart from telling the story, the exhibition also stands as an experience, an extroversion movement towards the other, or a common place, the most indefinable dimensions, even neo-humanism. It will certainly be interesting to explore the “humanist” side of art at the most important cultural and artistic event in the world, particularly given the rich experience of Christine Macel as the main conceiver of the idea.

Furthermore, every week during the six months of the spectacle in Venice, the visitors can attend the Open Table (Tavola Aperta), in which an artist will have lunch with their audience and have a dialogue about the artist’s practice. A series of short videos made by the participants will also be posted on the Biennale official website, one every day during the weeks before the opening, as part of Artist’s Practices Project, which will give us an opportunity to uncover their talents even before the Exhibition. Finally, there is the Unpacking My Library project, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s essay published in 1931, where the participants of Viva Arte Viva can make a list of their favorite books.

the exhibition features international and national arts under curator Christine Macel
Venice Biennale 2017, entrance to the main Pavilion

A Grand Pavilion of Art

Of course, the Venice Biennale 2017 would not be complete without the National Participations with their own exhibitions in the Pavilions at the Giardini and the Arsenale, as well as in the historic city centre and other venues of Venice. A total of 57 countries will present the very best of artistic production of their territory, and many participants are constantly being announced. Among them, there are the most renowned names in contemporary art today, such as Tracey Moffatt, who will represent Australia in a Pavilion curated by Natalie King. Moffatt is the first Australian Indigenous artist to present a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Celebrated installation artist Phyllida Barlow will represent Great Britain for the first time as well, while Mark Bradford was tapped by the United States of America. He will create a site-specific installation for the US Pavilion in the Giardini, although his plans are yet to be released in detail.

Among the European presentations, we have beloved sculptor Geoffrey Farmer for Canada; collage artist Kirstine Roepstorff for Denmark; Irish creative Jesse Jones and theater actress Olwen Fouéré for Ireland, who will do a performance piece exploring the idea of “national representation at Venice as an alternative site of the state”; Erwin Wurm and Brigitte Kowanz for Austria, with separate projects under the title Licht-Pavillon; multimedia master, musician and academic Cevdet Erek for Turkey; Scotland’s Rachel Maclean with a brand new film work; The NetherlandsWendelien van Oldenborgh with Cinema Olanda and three video works exploring Dutch cultural identity and post-colonial legacy; for Israel, there will be Gal Weinstein, with a new site-specific work, and for Iceland, we have Egill Sæbjörnsson, known for his work in video and performance. For Poland, there is Sharon Lockhart and the Little Review photography series, accompanied by a film; Germany will go with Anne Imhof, possibly with a performance and a set of paintings; Italy will be represented by three artists: Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi and Adelita Husni-Bey, under the curatorship of Cecilia Alemani. Another group initiative is the Nordic pavilion, with six artists representing Norway, Sweden and Finland: Siri Aurdal, Nina Canell, Charlotte Johannesson, Jumana Manna, Pasi “Sleeping” Myllymäki, and Mika Taanila.

From Asia, there is Takahiro Iwasaki, representing Japan with a work called Upside-Down Forest; Samson Young from Hong Kong, who is yet to reveal his plans; Zai Kuning for Singapore, who will stage a project called Dapunta Hyang going into the early history of the Malay language; and Manuel Ocampo and Lani Maestro for the Philippines, in a show titled The Spectre of Comparison. Critically acclaimed artist Tehching Hsieh is set to represent Taiwan. Tuvalu, one of the world’s smallest countries, will be represented by Vincent J. F. Huang, who will bring our attention to the crisis of climate change.

Africa will participate through countries like Zimbabwe, marking their fourth appearance with artists yet to be announced, and South Africa, which will stage a two-person show of Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng, who make films and photography respectively.

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Mark Bradford in front of his piece "The Next Hot Line" from his 2015 "Scorched Earth" show at the Hammer Museum. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Practical Information

The 57th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, or Venice Biennale 2017, will be held from May 13th through November 26th at Giardini and Arsenale in Venice, Italy. Special Preview Day is set for May 9th while the Vernissage is scheduled for May 10th through 12th. The Official Opening and Award Ceremony is on May 13th. Giardini and Arsenale will be closed on Mondays (except May 15th, August 14th, September 4th, October 30th, and November 20th). The opening hours are 10am to 6pm for both venues. Ticket prices range from €30 for the 48h ticket, €25 for the full regular, €22 for students and under 26, €20 for seniors over 65, military officers, residents and special card holders, €15 for students, to €16 for adults groups, €14 for student groups and €10 for secondary school groups. For more information, please visit the official website.

Featured images: Sarah Lucas, Venice Biennale 2015, via Ansa; Swatch, Venice Biennale 2015 via guggenheim-intrapresae; The light art project “time guards” Madonna and sisters by Manfred Kielnhofer on tour in Venice St. Mark's Square, via wikipedia; Canada, Venice Biennale 2015, courtesy artribune. All images used for illustrative purposes only.

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