I have just returned from the epic, visual indulgence of Venice. Dreamlike, romantic, surreal, sybaritic – the city was as inspiring as the art on display. These are some of the best things I was lucky enough to view.
Camille Norment, Rapture, Nordic Pavilion
Norway made a noticeable impression this year. The artist made it look as if the windows of the cubistic pavilion had exploded and caved on itself. In Norment’s sculptural and sonic installation the pavilion becomes a body. (The Norway party was also very memorable with vodka tonic garnished with samphire served on a boat shaped bar and an improvised sound performance by Tori Wranes).
John Akomfrah Vertigo Sea Giardini central pavilion
Akomfrah is a British-Ghanaian artist and filmmaker. He created a three screen video piece with well-edited images relating to the environment, whaling and our relationship to the sea. It was like watching a moving National Geographic with breath-taking visuals of nature and its beauty, combined with conflicting images of gory whaling, which filled you with sadness.
Future Histories, Casa Dei Tre Oci, Guidecca
This off site show featured two artists – Mark Dion and Arseny Zhilyaev. Influenced by museum practise of collection and display, these two artists created an imaginary future museum. Dion produced cabinets of curiosity and specimens while Zhilyaev made fake futuristic pieces and a room filled with Japanese maneki-nekos.
Katharina Grosse Untitled Trumpet, Arsenale
In Grosse’s installation in the Arsenale, she filled a room with plaster, fabric, Styrofoam, rubble and different surfaces painted in a kaleidoscope of colours. It felt as if you are stepping through a physical, three-dimensional abstract painting.
Doug Fishbone’s Leisureland Mini Golf
This was a fully playable mini golf course where nine artists were commissioned to design a hole inspired by ‘leisure’. This was a seriously fun, interactive piece and a pleasant break from looking at conventional art. Holes included Yinka Shonibare MBE’s nuclear cloud made from African patterned footballs.
Adrien Ghenie, Romanian Pavilion, Giardini
This was one of the few pavilions that showed a straightforward painting exhibition, which was refreshing. ‘Darwin’s Room’ contained thickly applied layered portraits with smudged faces and landscapes themed around past and future histories – from Hitler to a Self Portrait as Van Gogh.
Proportio, Palazzo Fortuny
The Palazzo Fortuny was one of my favourites from the last Biennale and this year did not disappoint. Curated by Axel Vervoordt and Daniella Ferretti, the exhibition explores proportions in art, music, science and architecture. Reflecting on ideas of order and chaos, I loved the juxtaposition of contemporary and old paintings mixed with sculpture and artefacts.
Marlene Dumas, Giardini central pavilion
I was struck by Dumas’ room full of skull portraits, which were hung evenly around a small, square shaped room. Each skull had a very individual personality and presence – blurry, eerie, confrontational and disturbing. She proved herself to be one of the most emotional and inspiring artists of her generation.
Seana can be found on Instagram @seanagavin