We are just back from the City of the Doges where this summer’s artapalooza kicked off with the 53rd Prosecco-soaked edition of La Biennale di Venezia. The show, which bore the very important title Making Worlds consisted of 38 exhibit spaces in the Arsenale and Giardini, plus a whopping 45 collateral event sites scattered throughout the city’s labyrinthine streets. This was in addition to numerous must-see museums, including the fabulous Pinault Collection at Palazzo Grassi and its new contemporary art venue at Punta della Dogana.
We spent at least a third of the preview days simply trying to get from one place to another, searching the maze of alleys and canals for obscure out-of-the-way locales like the Palazzo Rota Ivancich, the official venue of the Mexican Pavillion. But, all in all, we we were nicely surprised by the offerings: free food, art swag, yacht-and-people-watching, and, oh yeah, the city itself, which was once the wealthiest in all of Europe — and is therefore filled with masterpieces by 16th century heavyweights such as Titian, Veronese, Bellini and Palladio.
Of course, no artapalooza comes without annoyances, ironies, ridiculosity and even a few moments of sheer, breathtaking joy. Therefore, we present you with the First Annual C-Mon awards to celebrate the mother-of-all biennales, highlighting the good, the bad, the ugly, the incomprehensible and the just plain too damn much.
The envelope please…
FAVORITE SINGLE PIECE IN THE BIENNALE: Constellation No. 3 by Chun Yu at the Arsenale. The piece consists of a dark room lit only by the flashing indicator lights of various household appliances. Makes me want to try this at home. In fact, I think I already have… (Design Boom has a visual round-up of this piece. The image above is courtesy of their site.)
**Runners Up: Tomas Saraceno’s gigantic 3-D spider web at the Palazzo de la Esposizioni at the Giardini. Jorge Otero-Pailos’s The Ethics of Dust at the Doge’s Palace, a latex imprint of pollution. (See a video about it here.)
BEST PAVILION: Krysztof Wodiczko’s video installation Visitors at the Polish Pavilion. A moving commentary on immigration, consisting of projected, blurred windows through which we see real scenes of immigrants working, resting and talking about the real problems of their lives. Read more on the piece here. (Image courtesy of culture.pl.)
**Runner up: Teresa Margolles’s bloody narco-killings installation What else could we speak about? at the Mexican Pavilion. (See an image here; read a story here.)
MOST STONERRIFIC: Mike Kelley at Punta Dogana. All those pretty colors induced a serious craving for pink cake.
**Runner Up: Piotr Uklanski’s Dancing Nazis at Palazzo Grassi. Okay, so it’s more coke spoon than bong, but c’mon. Anything with a light-up dance floor is gonna be a feast for that little dancing bear that lives inside each and every one of us. Also stonerrific: This piece. (Sorry, I was so busy thinking Duuuude that I forgot to write down the artist’s name.)
THE UNION CARBIDE™ MEMORIAL AWARD FOR MOST TOXIC: Hands of the Buddha by Huang Yonping. A two part fiberglass installation of a pair of hands that one has to walk between. The piece was off-gassing so much resin that I think I inadvertently gave the Buddha a year of my life. And no, I don’t feel all zen about it.
MOST UNEXPECTEDLY FUN PARTY: The Guggenheim reception on June 5. Who woulda thunk that drinking Prosecco with a thousand people from every place you’ve ever lived (I caught folks from New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Rome, Los Angeles and Miami) could be this entertaining? Of course, we were in the garden of Peggy’s Palazzo, with the Grand Canal in the back, and a Marino Marini sculpture that has to have its erect shlong removed each night because it’s been stolen so many times. (How would you like to be the dude that has that job?) Update: We have since discovered that the sculpture’s dong is permanently welded on to prevent theft.
BEST OVERHEARD: At the Mona Hatoum show (zzzz), a collector was speaking to a guy from White Cube about sitting next to “Ray Charles” at a dinner party the previous night. Above: a sculpture by “Ray Charles.” Otherwise known as Charles Ray.
MOST LIKELY TO BE ON ITS WAY TO DISINTEGRATION BY THE 54TH BIENNALE (not including temporary installations): Sigmar Polke‘s heavy duty resin and pigment paintings on slack canvas at Punta della Dogana.
BEST FREE FOOD: The lunch reception outside the Giardini for New York Minute, a show on New York artists that’s to open at Rome’s MACRO Museum in September. Mainly because it was the only free lunch buffet on the Friday of the opening, but also because it served up tuna carpaccio, fritti, baked fish, seafood risotto and all the Prosecco your liver could absorb. And because they nodded knowingly when we said we were from C-Monster.
RUDEST PUBLICIST: The guy at the door at the New York Minute lunch reception. He snapped at us for not spelling our name (he didn’t ask), told his boss we didn’t have a card (we did), then on our way out when we thanked him, he turned away in a huff. A stressed, officious martinet. He needs another job. Like in a gallery…