Saturday, December 17, 2011

For the last 6 months Venice , Italy has been the canvas for Contemporary Art. How unusual since the entire city is a 3 dimensional version of traditional art in all its beautiful architecture and slithery wet streets . It was called the Venice Biennale. As it’s name suggests, it starts every 2 years. Imagine an entire city transformed into a giant Art exhibit.
This international Arts Festival began in 1895. It is the oldest International exhibition of Contemporary Art in the world. Even the Venice Film Festival doesn’t bring as many people to the city as this Festival which draws in about 400 thousand visitors between June and November. No wonder here in December, I had no problem being able to book a hotel of my choosing, everyone left!
It is so prestigious to be a part of the event that college kids are giving up their paid internships at other Museums for the opportunity to be part of the event as a unpaid intern. It is like the Art Olympics in that you are representing your country and are part of the world’s stage. This year 89 countries took part in the event. That means 89 exhibitions to visit!
The exhibitions are arranged by country in separate spaces. Each nation selects it’s own artists. If an artist’s work has been chosen to be shown at the Biennale, it will be a trophy of sorts like winning as Oscar or just being nominated. Participation in it is an honor that will go after your name in a biography. You will be recognized as a great artist.
Paolo Berratti is the President of the Biennale. He describes the festival experience, “as a wind machine because every two years everything is swept away and the new artist is seen in a new light.” One of the main sights called Giardini which means Park in Italian visitors can sit in a park surrounded by large artistic exhibits housed in buildings. There is the German pavilion once used by the Nazis.
At the German exhibit, the artist created a church setting; it was awarded The Golden Lion” or first place among national pavilions. Art has incredible power to inspire critical thinking. No matter who you are, viewing the creations will have everyone forming an opinion. At the U.S. Pavilion this year, the artist had an overturned tank that was being powered by a person running on a treadmill. Art critics called this a not so subtle example of American military might and its limits on power.
Italy’s exhibit was located in the Arsenale. It is considered the oldest factory in the world where Venetians built their shipping fleets back in the 16th century. The town is filled with art students on location and many of the buildings open their doors to anyone.
The Italian fashion icon Prada took over one of the palaces there to showcase a new artist. When it comes to contemporary art it is ok to say you don’t understand it but at the same time, don’t condemn it. Art invades the city and sparks an international conversation. See ya there in two years.

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