Every two years, the international art community turns its gaze to Venice, a city in Italy, to see the newest art the world has to offer. La Biennale di Venezia, or the Venice Biennale, is a large art exhibition where new and established artists share their work. Many of the works are on display for the first time.
A LONG TRADITION
Founded in 1895 by Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita di Savoia, the Venice Biennale celebrates the diverse new art being made all over the world. This year marks the 56th anniversary of the exhibition (it was not held during the world wars) and includes artwork from 89 countries, some of which, like Mongolia and Grenada, have never participated before. The exhibition opened earlier this month and will be on display until late November.
Each participating country houses its submissions in pavilions throughout the city. Venice’s former military and naval complex, called the Arsenale (ar-seh-NAH-leh), also houses a central gallery. Nigerian-born art critic Okwui Enwezor (AWK-wee en-WHEY-zor ) is the curator of the Arsenale exhibit, which shows artworks by 200 artists from countries not represented elsewhere in the Biennale.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
The exhibition includes sculptures, paintings, installations, and works created in many other media. The Arsenale and many of the other pavilions are extremely large spaces. Many of the participating artists take advantage of the large spaces, developing site-specific installations.
The work shown above, by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota (chee-hah-roo shy-oh-tah) fills an entire room in the Japan pavilion. Shiota uses red thread to form a labyrinth that connects two rustic boats. The threads hang above viewers, casting a reddish glow over the room. More than 50,000 keys, collected from people all over the world, dangle from the threads. The size of the gallery emphasizes the impressive scale of this work.
“As I create the work in the space, the memories of everyone who provides me with their keys will overlap with my own memories for the first time,” Shiota explains. “These overlapping memories will in turn combine with those of the people from all over the world who come to see the Biennale, giving them a chance to communicate in a new way and better understand each other’s feelings.”
MAKING A STATEMENT
The Biennale provides an opportunity for artists to reach an international audience. As a result, the art often has a political message. For example, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz (VIK MOO-neez) uses this world stage to draw attention to the deaths of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels. His sculpture, Lampedusa, is an enormous paper boat, which will float in the waters around Venice throughout the Biennale. The boat appears to be made from a newspaper with headlines addressing the recent tragedies.
Artists, curators, scholars, and collectors travel from around the globe to see the art on display at the Venice Biennale. The impact of this show is far-reaching, inspiring people to consider the ways artists from different parts of the world respond to real-world events.