Last month, I made my bi-annual pilgrimage to the Venice Biennale, a five-month-long contemporary art fest. And it was amazing. Art everywhere, as can be expected– and during press week, it is all fashion. I arrived in the midst of a downpour and with a fever so my baseline wardrobe was black studded Converse low tops, black pleather jeggings, and a black hoodie. I figured when the art world mixes with inclement weather, black is best. My bag was loaded with pens, notebooks and iPhone juice pack because I knew that my battery would drain fast from posting on Instagram for myself and Fathom, along with Vine. I was ready for Venice and everything the Biennale can bring– torrential rains, flashy parties, dead phones.
I hit the ground running by visiting the collateral events and openings that crossed my path like Henri Pinault’s latest gallery, Punta della Dogana (designed by Tadao Ando, it felt like a home collection, but the structure is great), Milla Jovovich and her Future/Perfect performance, the four-level Fondazione Stampalia Querini (eclectic) and a Marc Quinn cocktail party at Fondazione Cini (gargantuan and fabulous). Eventually I scooped up my press pass and backtracked to the Biennale Gardens. I am kind of old school about how I like to walk through the Biennale, probably in part due the months I spent sitting in the US Pavilion in 1999 watching Ann Hamilton’s installation. My four-day biennale program is usually as follows: I peruse every pavilion at the Gardens, walk through the Arsenale, pick up some collateral events and off-site pavilions on the walks home and then revisit the Gardens and pavilions that I want to see twice.
I love the gardens for the greenery, outdoorsy smell, crunchy gravel and the architecture– Russia’s onion dome, Austria’s minimalist rectangle, USA’s brick colonial, all of it represents the many different eras of the Biennale– from its early 20th century beginning to the post-war renovations to new architecture for new countries. This year, the pavilions were amazing. My favorites were the British, Russian, Portugese and Polish pavilions– mostly likely because they mixed humor and beauty. I thought the France/Germany switcheroo was rather sweet. Austria and Denmark had gorgeous videos. (Note: Portugal is a boat floating outside of the Biennale Gardens entrance). Overall, curation seemed sound/experiential-centric, though there was a strong strain of collectionism that really didn’t interest me — like Sarah Sze’s USA pavilion. It was just clutter. Note: I did love the Central pavilion which was a collection of collections and did not feel like clutter.
The Arsenale made me fall in love over and over again with paintings, videos and installation. Mariam Haji from Bahrain had some of the most beautiful paintings I have seen in a long time, the videos in the People’s Republic of China were beautiful, and the Indonesian and Bahama pavilions were enchanting. Kosovo’s tree root? was heady. The Arsenale corderie was a bit overwhelming, lots of art on the walls, perhaps too much with the amount of people running through it. Eventually, I made it through and then did my best to visit as many off-site pavilions as possible. Favorites were Mexico, New Zealand and Iraq. Favorite artist ogling: Great Britain’s Jeremy Deller in the Giardini, Iceland’s Ragnar Kjartansson on his boat, the unfriendly Ava & Adele, and of course Maurizio Cattelan.
I love the Biennale and did my best to offer it up to as many publications I could contact, and in the end, my Biennale articles appeared in Forbes Travel, Travel + Leisure, and Huffington Post. They were basic run-downs of the event, but I was happy that I could share it with three publications. The bonus came on my birthday when Instagram included me in its blog post “Capturing La Biennale”, with both my photo and a mention as one to follow along with 5 international artists.