…“So, along with the contemporaneity of what exists, there is the contemporaneity of what has existed and continues to live.”
Here, in this masterly definition by Vittorio Sgarbi, is the connection between history and the contemporary, between classic art and the art of today’s world. And here is the explanation for the natural bond between Venice – a city of art and history by definition – and the contemporary world.
Never, as in these days, do the classic and the contemporary appear so evident and so evidently connected, as they do here in Venice.
These are the days of the Biennale… or rather, these are the days of Art.
Yes, because while the Biennale has been the driving force behind great art in the lagoon for over a century, the entire city, and we are referring to its large, small, public or private institutions, is at its side to round off such an absolute truth, which again makes this town one of the greatest international art centres.
The month of May therefore presents itself, here in Venice, as a veritable explosion of art, of all types and from all backgrounds.
It is difficult to start off from a single aspect to talk about it, because its spread and breadth are so vast that it becomes impossible, at least within our space, to offer a rational idea of the events “flooding” the city – positively, this time – starting from the presentation days at the Biennale.
Nevertheless, we have chosen a starting point in any case, and it is the image on our cover.
It is an artwork by Arshile Gorky- or rather, a reproduction of one – a symbolic image for MUVE Contemporary, that is, for the exhibition programme implemented on the occasion of the Art Biennale by the Venice City Museums Foundation, currently directed by Gabriella Belli.
Arshile Gorky, the tormented, originally Armenian artist who left his mark on the history of American expressionism, is not a contemporary artist (he passed away in 1948), but he made history regarding that modernity which is inherent in all great artists, almost in their DNA, the very same which the Biennale acknowledged in him at its important edition in 1948, the first one in the post-war period, the one which highlighted much of the Italian art of the 1950s.
The retrospective dedicated to him will be hosted at the Ca’ Pesaro museum, that Venetian temple of modern art, and will be the largest one ever dedicated to him in Italy.
MUVE showcasing will then range over several fields, presenting a series of contributions by important artists combined with its extraordinary museum venues. There are creations by the famous Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala and poetic illusions by Matthias Schaller (both at the Museum of Glass); conceptu
al works by Flavio Favelli, conceived for the venues at Ca’Rezzonico, and photography ones on a social theme by Chiara Dynys.
These contributions are further flanked by the two important exhibitions at the Fortuny Museum, A family story dedicated to the Fortuny dynasty, and the retrospective dedicated to Korean Yun Hyong-keun; the Barry X Ball exhibition project; the site-specific installations by fashion photographer Brigitte Niedermair and by Iranian sculptor Bizhan Bassiri; the Carnet de Voyage project by Mavive, dedicated to an olfactory itinerary.
The step is very short from the Muve showcases to the Biennale ones. The 58th International Exhibition, which will see its apex during the preview days (8, 9, 10 May, while opening to the public from Saturday11), will be an inevitable point of reference for all art (and non) lovers visiting the city from the first days of May until 24 November.
Of course there is a lot to say, beginning from the title, May You Live In Interesting Times, proposed by its new director, British Ralph Rugoff, a title that is a prelude to research focused on social issues and which, as stated by the President Paolo Baratta, evokes the idea of “challenging times” and even threatening ones, but, at the same time, as he emphasises, of interesting times.
Its numbers would be sufficient to present it: 90 countries participating, represented by pavilions at the Giardini or by venues spread throughout town; 79 artists selected by the curator for the central exhibition, set up between the Giardini and the Arsenal; 21 collateral exhibitions.
This is not everything yet.
Muve and Biennale are flanked, as mentioned, by all the great institutions, with top-level events. A few suggestions?… Arp at the Peggy Guggenheim; Burri at the Cini Foundation; Marinot at Rooms of Glass; Kounellis at the Prada Foundation; Korzhev at Ca’Foscari; Tuymans at Palazzo Grassi; Leonardo da Vinci at the Galleries of the Accademia (and at palazzo Zaguri); Dubuffet at Palazzo Franchetti; Vedova at the Magazzini del Sale; Adrian Ghenie at Palazzo Cini; Joan Jones at the Church of San Lorenzo…
In short, Venice is art, not only, Venice is… “contemporaneity”.