Chronicles of an undercover reporter in Venice. By Nicolas Trembley.
The opening days of the Venice Art Biennale are always the stage for more or less comical scenes. This year, the Golden Lion went to the Prada Foundation, whose guest-filled pontoon collapsed in the Grand Canal during the opening of the Portable Classic exhibition (not bags, but antique sculptures). The locals were greatly amused, the press running the headline “Tutti i VIP nell’acqua per Prada.” No one drowned, but they probably all came down with strep infections...
The chief curator of this 56th edition of the Biennale, the Nigerian Okwui Enwezor, gave it the title All the World’s Futures. Each morning, in the central space of the international pavilion, there was a reading from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. “What? A communist Biennale?!” Behind this project was artist Isaac Julien, whose new film, somewhat incongruously, was sponsored by Rolls-Royce. The Biennale has now become a society event that uncomfortably straddles the breach between hot political topics (immigration, revolt, racism, unequal wealth distribution) and its ever larger and richer audience who make it the lagoon’s most lucrative event (far more so than the Film Festival or the Carnival). But in art, politics can have its limits, as demonstrated by the Icelandic pavilion: designed by Swiss architect Christoph Büchel, who turned a former church into a mosque, it was closed down after only two weeks. Similarly, the films of Syrian collective Abounaddara, though awarded a Special Mention by the jury, were never shown, and the collective consequently withdrew from the Biennale (they can be viewed at: http://vimeo.com/126950191).
“It’s a scam,” you often hear in Venice, but not for the same reasons. Venetians don’t hesitate to quadruple prices during the Biennale’s preview days...
By Nicolas Trembley
Read the full story in Numéro 165, now in stands and available in our iPad app.