World Art Summit: The Venice Biennale

The 54th Venice Biennale Began, As Always, In June. And These Days You Can View Those Spectacular Exhibits At The Biennale’s Tree-Shaded Giardini Venue Without Waiting In Line. Through November 27.

Venice Biennale opened as usual in June. Artists, curators, journalists and collectors from around the world were in town for the opening on June 4. The Biennale is also hosting a large and ambitious international exhibition. Curator this year is Bice Curiger, and the theme is ILLUMInations.

Turkey is taking part in the Biennale this year with Ayşe Erkmen’s work titled Plan B. Erkmen is known for her works that embody the memory and topography of a city, entering into a dialogue with it and even combining disparate geographies. Among her memorable creations are her Shipped Ships, featuring ferryboats in the cities of Frankfurt, Istanbul and Shingu in Japan, and Sculptures on the Air, a group of 15th and 16th century stone sculptures that floated in the skies of Münster suspended from a helicopter before being returned to their storage facility at the Landesmuseum.

When asked to produce a work for Venice, Erkman put together a project based on the concept of water, which has always intrigued her, and the canals that lace the city. Originally, her plan was to purify the canal water and offer it to Biennale-weary crowds to drink. When this proved unfeasible due to the local bureaucracy and rules of hygiene, she brought plan b into play, from which the installation also takes its name. Water is again purified, but this time in an aesthetic arrangement in which the entire hall is crisscrossed with colorful pipes from which the water is pumped back into the canals, without being drunk.

When you enter this space, you encounter both the gaily painted pipes, whose deliberate complexity creates an aesthetically pleasing impression, and the hum of the machines attached to them. Ayşe Erkmen has broken a huge purification unit up into eight components and disseminated them around the space, connected by the pipes, producing a mechanical sculpture, a vast, curious and somewhat alienating installation in which hundreds of jobs are being performed simultaneously. Indeed, Biennale visitors must have been impressed too because 150,000 of them toured the Turkish pavilion in the first two months. Perhaps because they saw themselves in it, the art world especially was enamored of Erkmen’s sculpture. But Plan B’s main concern of course is Venice. With the canals that give it richness, that brought it power and fame, and to which it literally owes its existence. Today as well they ensure that Venice remains a leading center of tourism. In them circulates the water that is the city’s protector and, slowly rising now, is also becoming its enemy.

Realized with Fiat sponsorship and the support of the Promotion Fund of the Prime Ministry of Turkey under the auspices of Turkish Airlines, and coordinated by the Istanbul Foundation of Culture and Art, the Venice Biennale’s Turkey pavilion is less crowded today than it was in its early days. If you go to the Biennale, be sure to visit this venue, crisscrossed with pipes of red, blue, green and magenta through which water is driven by a constantly humming motor. Perhaps you’ll even be offered a surreptitious drop of distilled Venetian water… Until November 27.


The international exhibition is opening with large canvases by the classic Venetian painter, Tintoretto, who gave so much importance to the play of light, and the works of 83 other artists. HIghlights include Golden Lion winner Christian Marc Lay’s film The Clock, Monica Bonvicini’s stairs climbing to the light, and Maurizio Cattelan’s joke consisting of 2,000 embalmed pigeons scattered throughout the entire exhibition area.


But the Venice Biennale isn’t only these exhibitions. For one thing there is Venice itself. And its museums. Don’t miss them as you roam the city’s narrow streets and skip from this canal to that on the vaporetti. The exhibitions that open at the Punta Della Dogana, the Peggy Guggenheim and the Palazzo Grassi at Biennale time, as well as the Prada collection at the Corner Della Regina, are not to be missed.