The world’s best art fest is back
I love contemporary art, I love great exhibitions and museums but more than anything I love the Venice Biennale. It’s my kind of escape because it’s not just an exhibition, not just an event and not just a space, it’s a mentality that takes over Venice, overlaying crazy art on quite possibly one of the most suggestive places in the world . . . for six months.
879 days passed since the last Venice Biennale (I’ve been counting ever since pandemic shoved the biennale into art world purgatory.) I won’t say the wait was worth it, but after spending the week of April 19 at the Biennale for the press preview, I am pretty happy the Biennale is back and record-breaking with more art, more artists more women and more exhibitions. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy a day at the Venice Biennale.
Venice Biennale explained
The Biennale is a six-month art celebration that takes over all of Venice. in every nook, cranny, palazzo, garden, museum and boat, you’ll find art. The official Biennale runs for six months – April 23 through Number 27, 2022 – and takes place in two locations: the Giardini Biennale, an expansive garden in Venice’s northwest and the Arsenale, a centuries-old shipyard just behind it.
What kind of commitment is a Biennale ticket? Culture vultures can visit the Giardini and Arsenale over the course of one day, but I personally prefer splitting over two days. There is a lot of art and you’ll need to give yourself a break. Conveniently, the single-entry ticket gives access both to the Giardini area and the Arsenale only once, but each site can be visited on different and non-consecutive days.
The Biennale continues out of gardens and arsenal and all over the floating city in Collateral Events, i.e. external exhibitions. Independently organized by galleries and institutions like Palazzo Grassi, Fondazione Prada, and MuVE (Venice’s museum networks), these are separate ticket events and require less visiting time.
The Biennale Giardini
Consider the Biennale Gardens the epicentre of it all. This is where you’ll find the historic country pavilions that are like a three-dimensional boo on architecture. Colonial, neoclassical, rationalist, contemporary, futurist and even make shift, it’s all there. Single or multi-artists, National Pavilions are the voice of country’s whose curators have curatorial freedom. You’ll find site specific work, performance, audio and more.
Though I loved everyone, I have a few favourites. Without any spoilers, don’t miss Great Britain– winner of the Golden Lion for Best National Participation, United States, Austria and Brazil for the humor, Poland , Belgium for utter joy and Greece for a virtual ride with a 21st century Sophocles, and the Central Pavilion.
Themes and Dreams
The Central Pavilion is the heart of the Biennale, a multi-artist exhibition curated a single person and guided by a theme. 2022 is Il Latte dei Sogni (The Milk of Dreams), a phrase chosen from a book by surrealist artist Leonora Carrington about transformation and self.
Biennale curator Cecilia Alemanno chose the milk of dreams as inspiration for artists and curators to explore identity, transformation, and beauty. As the first female Biennale curator ever, Alemanno keeps breaking records, brining in more than 200 artists from 58 countries and over 1400 works of art, and covering decades of art history. And best of all, 90% of the artists are female.
Should you see everything? Nah, just see what you like. But please make sure to stop at Jadè Fadojutimi paintings. Did I mention Il Latte dei Sogni continues in the Arsenale?
How much time in the Giardini? Half a day, or about 4 hours.
Envision a series of abandoned redbrick warehouses. This is the Arsenale, and you’ll begin at the one-kilometre long Corderie where the The Milk of Dreams continues. Room after room you’ll find sculpture, video, paintings, drawings and even earth installations.
You can’t and won’t want to miss Golden Lion winner Simone Leigh’s colossal bronze sculpture, greeting you from the very beginning. Be on the look for Sandra Mujinga’s Sentinels of Change, Delcy Morelos’ Earthly Paradise, all of Cecilia Vicuna’s paintings and Elisa Giardini Papa’s amazing video installation, and Precious Okoyomon’s installation of To See The Earth Before the End of the World.
The Arsenale is full art immersion, which means you’ll find more national pavilions and site specific art like Wu Tsang’s Of Whales. Don’t miss Italy, Malta, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand.
How much time will you need? Half day, or about 4 hours.
Keeping up with Collateral Events
If you haven’t oversaturated yourself in art, you’ll want to check out the Collateral Events. I’ve realised that my favorites take place in epic locations like Anselm Keifer‘s Questi Scritti, Quando Verranno Bruciati, Daranno Finalmente Un Po’ di Luce at the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace!!) and Mary Weathersford‘s The Flaying of Marsyas at Palazzo Grimani. Go neck deep in surrealism at Peggy Guggenheim and then just enjoy An Archaeology of Silence – Kehinde Wilely at Palazzo CIni.
How much time do you need? At most an hour per exhibition, and some less.
A quick take on the Biennale Arte 2022: a my opinion, this is a “must see” event even if you don’t like or “get” contemporary art. No where else are you going to see such incredible artwork from amazing artists who live all over the world solely for the purpose of showing, and not selling. There is a lot of great work, and some cliches and tropes, but overall, the vibe is inspiring.
It’s also mind-blowing to look at through the lens of art history and how women have been off the books or minority players in the art world. On the downside, there is a lot of art, to the point of which it may be a bit overkill in the Corderie and Central Pavilion. My hope for the next Biennale di Arte is Great Art, Great Artists and Less is More curation.
Where to eat and sleep in Venice
The key to Venice is knowing what you want and where you want to be. I know what I’m talking about. In the early 2000s, I worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Venice Biennale, which meant I spent a lot of time walking and getting to know Venice’s six sestieri (neighborhoods) and Lido. Here’s my guide to La Serenissima’s sestieri. As for restaurants, as me me for my ever-updating google map of Venetian restaurants, bars and bacari and reach out for location and hotel tips.
June 9, 2022