The 2011 iteration of the Venice Biennale, that art-world exhibition that combines the Olympic thrill of awards — the Golden Lion for best in show and the Silver Lion for best emerging artists — with World's Fair-style pavilions, officially opens on Saturday and gears up all this week with previews and other events. With 10 more countries participating than at the last edition, the 54th Biennale di Venezia will be the largest and most inclusive iteration to date, with 86 nations represented — including, for the first time, Andorra, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Haiti, Malaysia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe. Also, after long absences, Democratic Republic of Congo and India are returning to Venice.
ARTINFO here provides a list of the ivy-garlanded artists who will be representing their countries in Venice's famed Giardini and Arsenale, as well as other locations around the city. Since the initial announcements, Bahrain and Lebanon have withdrawn from the Biennale. For the roster of artists being featured in Biennale curator Bice Curiger's official "ILLUMInations" exhibition, which runs parallel to the national pavilions, click here.
The List (in Alphabetical Order)
Curated by Art Academy of Venice professor Riccardo Caldura, the show — titled "Geopathies," with a focus on how a work's national context informs its meaning — includes five Albanian artists, most of them based in Milan: Anila Rubiku, Orion Shima, Gentian Shkurti, Eltjon Valle, and Driant Zeneli. The selection, however, has proven controversial in Albania, with some protesting the inclusion of Shima, whose brother, Albanian National Gallery director Rubens Shima, appoints the pavilion's curator (Rubens Shima denies any special pleading); other elements of nepotism have been charged as well in the show, which is at the Spazio Rolak and marks Albania's third appearance at the Biennale.
The small European nation of Andorra has selected two Andorran artists, photographer Helena Guàrdia Ribó and painter Francisco Sánchez Sánchez, for its inaugural exhibition at the Campo San Samuele at the Venice Biennale. Curators Paolo De Grandis and Josep M. Ubach Bernada said in a statement that they chose the two artists because they share a "common denominator": despite their different chosen mediums, both "analyze aspects to do with the boundaries of perception." The artists will present two discrete bodies of work at the Biennale. Guàrdia's series, "La ciutat flotant" (The floating city), consists of digitally altered photographs of everyday life, often focused on the role of light. Sánchez will present a triptych called "L'efimer I l'etern" (The ephemeral and the eternal), which explores scientific concepts of energy and frequency.
Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas will represent his native country at the Biennale. At the tender age of 31, Rojas has already exhibited widely and currently works with galleries in São Paulo, Paris, Bogota, and Buenos Aires. He will show at the central Arsenale space alongside artists from Chile and Turkey. Rojas is known for large-scale multimedia installations that combine cement, clay, mirrors, and auto parts. Curator Rodrigo Alonso has called Argentina's choice of Rojas "a bet on the future," describing the artist as "young, strong, with solid work that experiments and builds a very personal narrative."
Located at Palazzo Zenobio, Armenia's pavilion is distinguished by having more curators that artists: organized by Armine Antikyan, Vardan Azatyan, Ruben Arevshatyan, and Nazaret Karoyan, the pavilion features work by Mher Azatyan, Grigor Khachatryan, and Astghik Melkonyan.
The Australia Council for the Arts has tapped the Egypt-born sculptor Hany Armanious for its pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale. Armanious is known for a wide variety of sculptural work, ranging from sizable installations involving mud, dirt, and bricks to small, handcrafted objects made out of polyurethane, clay, plastic, and foam. He has had recent shows at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, castillo/corrales gallery in Paris, and Foxy Production in New York. Australia has participated in the biennale since 1954. Its recent artist representatives include Shaun Gladwell in 2009; Callum Morton, Susan Norrie, and Daniel von Sturmer in 2007; Ricky Swallow in 2005; and Patricia Piccinini in 2003. The nation's pavilion was designed by Australian architect Philip Cox and opened in 1988.
As Austria's representative at the 2011 biennale, artist Markus Schinwald plans to transform the pavilion into a performance space. Schinwald will work closely alongside pavilion curator Eva Schlegel, who exhibited her own work at the biennale in 1995. Schinwald was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1973 and now lives and works in Vienna and Los Angeles. His multidisciplinary practice, which ranges from sculpture to film to printmaking to performance, focuses on the human body. He has had solo shows at the Aspen Art Museum and the Augarten Contemporary in Vienna, and is represented in the collections of the Tate Modern, the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, and Kunsthaus Zürich.
Azerbaijan will host two generations and six artists in its pavilion, curated by Cinghiz Farzaliev. The artists — Mikayil Abdurahmanov, Zeigam Azizov, Khanlar Gasimov, Aga Ousseinov, Altai Sadighzadeh, Aidan Salakhova — will all exhibit work in some way inspired by Baku, the nation's capital. The selection is interdisciplinary: London-based artist Zeigam Azizov's work is largely text based, while Khanlar Gasimov is best known for sculpture (his large, stainless steel bowl is currently on display at Rockefeller Park in Cleveland). Sculptor Aga Ousseinov is one of the few pavilion artists with ties to New York: he exhibits with Christopher Henry Gallery in the Lower East Side. Aidan Salakhova, by contrast, has exhibited largely within Russia. A curator, gallerist, and teacher at the Surikov Art Institute, Salakhova founded an eponymous gallery in 1992. Painter, designer, and architect Altai Sadighzadeh is best-known for designing Baku's Museum of Modern Art — and for being married to the first lady of Azerbaijan's sister, Nargiz Pashayeva.
Bahrain intended to make its first time appearance at the Biennale this June. But due to internal political turmoil, the tiny Gulf nation announced it would have to withdraw. Bahrain's inability to send an artist to Venice is especially unfortunate since last year the country had its first appearance at the Venice Architecture Biennale and walked away with the Golden Lion for best pavilion. Curated by architects Noura Al-Sayeh and Fuad Al-Ansari, the national display focused on plans to develop areas along its shores where water has receded and included three traditional fisherman's huts. The jury was impressed with its "lucid and forceful self-analysis of the nation's relationship with its rapidly changing coastline." According to the New York Times, pavilion commissioner Melissa Enders-Bhatia had been planning a collaborative project by Waheeda Malullah, a video artist, and Hassan Hujairi, a sound artist.
Bangladesh has selected five artists — Mahbubur Rahman, Kabir Ahmed Masum Chisti, Imran Hossain Piplu, Promothesh Das Pulak, and Tayeba Begum Lipi — to represent the nation at its inaugural pavilion. The country has tapped two high-profile figures to curate the space: Paulo W. Tamburella, who represented the Comoros Islands in the 2009 biennale, and Mary Angela Schroth, the American founder of Sala 1, one of the first galleries in Rome to showcase international contemporary artists.
A documentary is being made about Belarus's pavilion this year, which will include four new text-based works each by Yuri Alisevich, Artur Klinov, Konstantin Kostyuchenko, Viktor Petrov, and Denis Skvortsov. The show, titled "Kodex," has been curated at the Arsenale Spazio Thetis by Belarusian State Academy of Arts rector Mikhail Borozna, and the country hopes to create a permanent pavilion at the Biennale.
Artist Angel Vergara will team up with Belgian art star Luc Tuymans to represent the nation at the 2011 Biennale. Vergara's project, which will take over the entire pavilion, is inspired by the seven deadly sins. His interdisciplinary practice ranges from painting to sculpture to new media and often confronts social, political, and economic issues. Tuymans has been the focus of several retrospectives of his own, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and at Haus der Kunst in Munich. Although famous for his figurative paintings of important contemporary figures, he has curated several shows, including "The State of Things: Brussels/Beijing," an exhibition comparing Belgian and Chinese artwork, and the inaugural Bruges Central art festival in Belgium.
Rio-based artist and Portugal native Artur Barrio will represent Brazil at this year's Venice Biennale. Barrio is best known for his interactive installation pieces that employ unappetizing materials — including animal bones, entrails, and bodily fluids. (In the late 1960's, he would sometimes place what he referred to as "bloody bundles" — animal parts wrapped in white cloth — on the sidewalks of Rio and record the responses of passerby on videotape.) Although Barrio is extremely well established in Brazil and Europe — he was spotlighted in the 2005 exhibition "Barrio-Beuys" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgium — he didn't have an exhibition in the United States until Moore College of Art and Design showed his work in 2006.
Held at the Palazzo Carminati, Bulgaria's display has been organized by curator Georges Luks and features work by the artists Greddy Assa, Pavel Koichev, and Houben Tcherkelov.
America's northern neighbor has selected multimedium artist Steven Shearer for the 2011 biennale. Born in 1968, Shearer has exhibited infrequently in recent years, recently being paired with Daniel Guzmán in a 2008 show at New York's New Museum. In a statement to press, National Gallery of Canada director Marc Mayer said, "Under its pop cultural surface, Steven Shearer's work is surprisingly complex and insightful." An alumnus of American Fine Arts, the storied New York gallery run by the late Colin de Land, Shearer is represented by Galleria Franco Noero in Turin and Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zurich. The Canadian pavilion was designed by the Milan-based architecture firm BBPR and was first used at the 1958 biennale. The nation has been participating in the international exhibition since 1952.
The Chilean Cultural Council tapped Fernando Prats, the Chilean-born, Barcelona-based artist, to represent the South American nation at the 2011 biennale. Prats was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship in 2007 and has since worked with a number of significant European curators, including Jorge Díez, Paul Ardenne, and Fernando Castro Florez, with whom he will collaborate again for the 2011 biennial exhibition. Of his nomination, Prats said, "My work is closely related to Chile and its territory is the central geography that has occupied me for some time: the natural arch of Antofagasta, the geysers of Tatio, the salt flat of Atacama, and the mines in Chuquicamata and Lota." He is a partner at Galeria Joan Prats, one of Barcelona's pioneer galleries of international contemporary art. He has exhibited at the Institut Valencia d'Art Modern, Galeria Animal in Chile, and Museo Moderno in Buenos Aires.
Curated by Peng Feng, vice dean of the Aesthetics and Educational Research Center at Peking University, the Chinese display entitled the "Pervasion of Chinese Flavors" is described as a celebration of the country's national flavors and scents. Promised are works that evoke tea from Cai Zhisong, China's traditional white spirit "baijiu" from Liang Yuanwei, the smell of lotus from Pan Gongkai, medicinal herbs from Yang Maoyuan, and incense from Yuan Gong. (See ARTINFO China's coverage of the pavilion, here.)
Details are fuzzy about the logistics of the Democratic Republic of Congo's first appearance at the Biennale in years — ARTINFO couldn't find out where it's located, or who curated it, for instance — but it is titled "L'Art et la Femme dans le Nouveau Congo" and features work by Barly Baruti, Ange Bofenda, Huguette Diwampovesa, Dieudonné Kumindike, Ilanga Moli, and Fifi Panzu. The commissioner of the pavilion is Rocky Makota Kayimbi.
With the title of "Stupor," curators Luca Carniato and Dino Leoni have dedicated this year's pavilion to the historical example of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who was known as "Stupor Mundi" for his remarkable ascent — he was king of Sicily at age 3 (or co-ruler with his mom, really) — and his patronage of the arts and sciences. The exhibition at Sant'Elena Campo de la Chiesa will include work by artists and photographers Luis Chacón, Francisco Córdoba, the duo of Silvia Fossati and Raffaella Rosa Lorenzo, Gianfranco Meggiato, Gavin Rain, Jaime David Tischler, Patrizio Travagli, Horst Uhlemann, Alec Von Bargen, and Luca Zampetti.
Titled "One Needs to Live Self-Confidently... Watching" after a quote from the late mercurial former-Yugoslavian performance artist Tomislav Gotovac, this show — organized by the radical and engaged curatorial group What, How, and for Whom — presents work by Gotovac (who changed his name to Antonio G. Lauer in 2004, three years before his death) in an installation by BADco. Not complex at all.
Held fittingly enough away from the mainland, on the Isola di San Servolo, the Cuban pavilion has been organized by Duccio Trombadori and Jorge Fernandez under then name "Cuba Mon Amour." The artists participating are Alexandre Arrechea, Alessandro Busci, Yoan Capote, Felipe Cardeña, Duvier Del Dago, Giorgio Ortona, Alessandro Papetti, Eduardo Ponjuàn, and Desiderio Sanzi.
This pavilion, titled "Temporal Taxonomy," has been organized by curator Yiannis Toumazis to underscore the tension between the gestural, expressionistic work of Elizabeth Hoak-Doering and the "scientific" topographical pieces of Marianna Christofides. It is located on the second floor Palazzo Malipiero.
Czech and Slovak Republic
For his project "The Sleeping City," D. Lang has created a sculptural urban psychoscape that refers back to the 30-year-old artist's late father, Jiří Lang, and his stifled experience as an artist under Soviet oppression. The pavilion has been curated by Yvona Ferencová.
This year, Denmark may have the honor of being the most crowded pavilion — or at least, the one with the most artists represented. The exhibition, organized by the Belgium-based Greek curator Katerina Gregos, will feature 18 artists ranging in age from 29 to 77. Big names include the Czech film-maker Jan Svankmajer, American cartoonist Robert Crumb, Dutch net artist Ha Hoogerbrugge, and multidisciplinary Chinese artist Zhang Dali. American artists Sharon Hayes and Taryn Simon will also be featured. Only two Dutch artists, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen and Thomas Poulson, will be included in the display. The majority of the artists will present new works made specifically for the exhibition, which will focus on freedom of speech. "My aim with this exhibition is precisely to create a space that brings together different considered artistic reflections and insights into a subject, which is so often discussed in a very polarized or simplistic way," Gregos said in statement.
Egypt will present the works of martyred revolutionary artist Ahmed Basiouny in an exhibition called "Thirty Days of Running in the Place." It will consist of five video screens showing two projects: a work by Basiouny with the same title, as well as video footage that he shot in the days before his death at the hands of police forces in Tahrir Square. According to the press release, the Egyptian ministry of culture seeks to "recognize and honor the life and death of an artist who was fully dedicated to the notions of an Egypt that only too recently demanded the type of change he was seeking his entire life." The pavilion is curated by Aida Eltorie and Shady Elnoshokaty.
Artist Liina Siib's "A Woman Takes Little Space" is a multi-room, multimedia show examining the variegated roles and statuses of women in contemporary Estonia, from matron to prostitute. It has been organized by Estonian Center for Contemporary Arts director Johannes Saar alongside Andris Brinkmanis and Elin Kard at the Palazzo Malipiero.
Filling the country's proud Alvar Aalto-designed pavilion in the Giardini, Vesa-Pekka Rannikko's show will use that wooden echt-Finnish space as a launching pad for a consideration of Finnishness. The show has been curated by Finnish Fund for Art Exchange FRAME director Laura Köönikkä.
Christian Boltanski will represent France in an exhibition curated by Jean-Hubert Martin, a former director of the Centre Pompidou. The artist is best known for his haunting, dimly-lit installation often featuring children and acerbic world view. He once told an interviewer, "We are a subject one day, with our vanities, our loves, our worries, and then one day, abruptly, we become nothing but an object, an absolutely disgusting pile of shit." France will be celebrating nearly a century in its pavilion, which was designed by Faust Finzi in 1912.
Tamara Kvesitadze will represent her native Georgia at the Venice Biennale. This will be Kvesitadze's second time as Georgia's chosen artist; she last exhibited at the 2007 event. Born in Tbilsi, Georgia in 1968 and trained in architecture, Kvesitadze now specializes in sculptures and drawings of the human figure. She shows with TMS Gallery in Georgia and has exhibited at Art Cologne, the Gilbert Albert Museum in Geneva, and Thomas Boland Gallery in New York. The pavilion curator, Henk Slager, was a co-curator of the 7th Shanghai Biennale in 2008 and is currently the dean of the Utrecht Graduate School of Visual Art and Design.
Germany's pick for the Venice Biennale, director, actor, and artist Christoph Schlingensief died of lung cancer earlier this year at the age of 49. His plans for the pavilion were unfinished, according to its curator, Susanne Gaensheimer, director of Frankfurt's Museum of Modern Art, who has confirmed that he will still be the featured artist in the show. Gaensheimer told the Art Newspaper that she considered leaving the pavilion empty, but will instead present his work in some form. "It might be an option to curate his work like a retrospective," she said. A publication will document his initial plans for the pavilion, which will not be realized. "There are so many questions and no one knows what Schlingensief would have done," she said. Schlingensief's selection earlier this year had been viewed as a somewhat unusual choice since he was better known as a director than as an artist. At the time he described the honor as "a fantastic surprise," noting that he had "worked in many areas, as a film, theater and opera director, as a producer, as a stand-up entertainer, as a person, and that includes as a sick person and Christ, not to mention as a politician and performer." The pick had attracted criticism from many quarters, with artist Gerhard Richter calling the selection "a scandal." Following Schlingensief's death, Gaensheimer noted, "Now, we have to discuss things calmly and then see." Germany's pavilion was designed by Ernst Haiger and inaugurated in 1938 by the ruling Nazi government, a fact that has inspired artistic responses from some presenters. Hans Haacke's 1993 exhibition, for example, included a large photograph of Hitler.
For her installation, Diohandi will also take the physical pavilion as a jumping-off point, reworking both the interior and exterior surfaces to create a new environment of Byzantine flourishes as well as water, light, and sound. The display has been curated by Maria Marangou.
The island nation has established its first-ever pavilion at the Biennale with two simultaneous programs. One, titled "Haiti, Kingdom of this World," presents the work of 15 artists from Haiti and the Haitian diaspora: Sergine André, Élodie Barthelemy, Mario Benjamin, Maxence Denis, Edouard Duval-Carrié, Frankétienne, Guyodo, Sébastien Jean, Killy, Tessa Mars, Pascale Monnin, Paskö, Barbara Prézeau, Roberto Stephenson, Hervé Télémaque, and Patrick Vilaire. It is organized by Haitian curator Giscard Bouchotte. The other exhibition, "Death and Fertility," has been conceived by Italian artist Daniele Geminiani with the support of the photographer and publisher Gordon Leah. It will present sculptures by three artists from Port-au-Prince, Jean Hérard Celeur, André Eugène, and Claude Saintilus, who are part of the group Atis Rezistans, in an intriguing location — inside two 40-foot shipping containers arranged in the form of a T.
With a centerpiece of a totaled black BMW, Hajnal Németh's show "CRASH — Passive Interview" involves an "experimental opera" and musical film that interpret car crashes as a hermeneutic phenomenon. Curated by Miklós Peternák.
Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson (not to be confused with artist Olafur Eliasson, who represented his native Denmark in 2003) will be handed the keys to the pavilion in 2011. The two have collaborated on projects since 1997. Castro also has distinction of being one of the rare artists picked to represent a country of which she is not a citizen, a feat achieved last year by Briton Liam Gillick, who represented Germany at the exhibition. The humble island nation has been visiting the Biennale since 1960, back when it was held in even-numbered years — this year marks their fiftieth anniversary.
India has announced that it plans to organize a pavilion at the Biennale for the first time, with the support of the culture ministry and the organizational participation of the Lalit Kala Akademi. Curator Ranjit Hoskote has selected Zarina Hashmi, a printmaker and sculptor, Gigi Scaria, a painter and video artist, Praneet Soi, a mixed-media artist, and The Desire Machine Collective, made up of the husband-and-wife team Mriganka Madhukaillya and Sonal Jain. The pavilion's theme is "Everyone Agrees: It's About to Explode." Biennale organizers have reportedly invited the country to participate in past years, but the government has declined until now — a decision attributed to a lack of communication between the culture ministry and the country's National Gallery of Modern Art. Jahawar Sircar, secretary for the ministry of culture, told The Hindu that the government was at first reluctant to get involved, believing that India's contemporary art scene was flourishing and did not need to seek greater international recognition. "It is because of private galleries, individual artists, and other art institutions that Indian art has been internationally recognized," he said. "Public institutions in India cannot take credit for it. We are now exploiting this opportunity."
Iraq will be exhibiting at the Venice Biennale for the first time since 1976. The pavilion, curated by Mary Angela Schroth, will feature two generations of Iraqi artists. Ali Assaf, Azad Nanakli, and Walid Siti were all born in the 1950s; Abel Abidin, Halim Al Karim, and Ahmed Alsoudani are 10 to 20 years younger. Although all six artists were born in Iraq, the group now practices all over the world: Asaf is based in Rome, Siti works in London, Abidin lives in Helsinki, Al-Karim is based in Denver, and Alsoudani, Berlin. Despite Iraq's long absence from Venice, several of the exhibiting artists have previous biennale experience: Siti exhibited a wall installation at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 as part of a collateral event and Abidin was featured in the Nordic Pavilion during the 52nd Biennale. Alsoudani currently shows with Haunch of Venison Gallery in New York. The pavilion curator, Mary Angela Schroth, is the American founder of Sala 1, one of the first galleries in Rome to showcase international contemporary artists. She will also be co-organizing Bangladesh's pavilion at the 2011 event.
Ireland has named sculptor Corban Walker as its 2011 artist ambassador to Venice. Emily-Jane Kirwan, a director at the Pace Gallery who formerly worked as an arts officer of the South Dublin County Council, has been named the commissioner of the nation's pavilion. Known for large-scale sculptures and installations that often involve sheets of glass, Walker's work has recently been featured at LentSpace in downtown Manhattan and Shaquille O'Neal's "Size Matters" show at the FLAG Art Foundation in Chelsea, and "Reflective Reflexion" at the Winkleman Curatorial Research Lab, a show organized by by painter Joy Garnett. In 2009, the island nation was represented by artists Sarah Browne and Gareth Kennedy.
Artist Sigalit Landau has been picked by Israel's Ministry of Sport and Culture to represent the country. Landau earned a solo show (curated by Klaus Biesenbach) at the Museum of Modern Art in 2008, where she memorably presented a hypnotic, vibrant video of her floating alongside a stream of watermelons, and another of her hoola-hooping with a ring of barbed wire. In 1995 she won the Wolf Fund Anselm Kiefer Prize, which is devoted to young artists — she was 26 at the time — and the Israel Culture Minister's Prize. Designed by Zeev Rechter, Israel's 1952 pavilion has three exhibition floors (a somewhat unusual feature in the Giardini), and was refurbished in 1966 by architect Fredrik Fogh, who was responsible for a 1987 addition to Scandinavia's pavilion.
Italian artist Paolo Ventura will exhibit his fanciful photographs at the 54th Venice Biennale's Italian national pavilion this summer. Known for photographing intricate stage sets that he constructs himself, Ventura's melancholic photos recreate bygone eras of Italian history. (His Winter Stories series presented snapshots of the lives of old circus performers, while his War Souvenir series depicted his grandmother's memories of WWII.) Ventura will be showing all new work at the Arsenale in June. The artist is represented exclusively by Hasted Kraeutler in the United States, and has had solo shows at the Museum of Photography in the Netherlands, Forma International Center of Photography in Milan, and the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome, among others. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Earlier this year, Italian culture minister Sandro Bondi named Vittorio Sgarbi as curator of the nation's pavilion. While previously serving as Italy's undersecretary of culture, Sgarbi aroused controversy in 2002 when he attempted to have Australian-born art historian Robert Hughes named curator of the Venice Biennale. He has also made the news for his suggestion that contemporary art is a "dictatorship." Sgarbi once told a reporter, "I regularly attack what I call the 'art mafia'... I fight for minorities, I am for pluralism." The curator, who has not announced which artist(s) he will include in the pavilion, will also organize the biennale's adjunct "Padiglione Italia" show in the Arsenale.
Artist Tabaimo (given name: Ayako Tabata) has been selected as the artist to represent Japan at the biennale, under the direction of Yuka Uematsu, curator of the National Museum of Art in Osaka. A 35-year-old artist, Tabaimo is know for vast projections that turn traditional ukiyo-e ("floating world") woodblock-inspired illustrations into eerie, luminous environments. Working across various mediums, the artist also look to the aesthetics of manga and anime, luring viewers in with images that seem to promise domestic tranquility and order - a promise quickly proven false as Tabaimo's subversion of the genre becomes apparent. Her work for the festival will tackle the theme of the "Trans-Galápagos Syndrome," a phenomenon in which a country recedes into isolation in the face of encroaching globalization. In 2001, Tabaimo was the youngest artist ever to participate in the Yokohama Triennale, and in 2000 she received the prestigious Kirin Contemporary Award for her undergraduate thesis. Her selection as the artist to occupy Japan's 2011 pavilion was announced by James Cohan Gallery, which represents the artist in New York.
Entitled "Artificial Peace (Contemporary Landscape)," the Latvian exhibition has been curated by Astrida Rogule and commissioned by Daiga Rudzate. The work of Kristaps Gelzis will be on display at the Palazzo Albrizzi.
Lebanon withdrew from this year's Biennale event after its coalition government dissolved in January and it has been unable to form a new one. The nation skipped the 2009 Biennale but had its own national pavilion for the first time in 2007, curated by Saleh Barakat and Sandra Daghe with the participation of artists Fouad Elkoury, Lamia Joreige, Walid Sadek, Mounira Al Solh, and Akram Zaatari. This year's curator was to have been Georges Rabbath, who had titled the pavilion "Lebanon As a State of Mind." Ten artists were to have been featured: Annabel Daou, Etel Adnan, Marya Kazoun, Cornelia Krafft, Ricardo Mbarkho, Samer Mohdad, Jacko Restikian, Shawki Youssef, Camille Zakharia, and CPS (Chamber of Public Secrets). Rabbath told ARTINFO in April that he would still present the exhibition as an independent project.
Commissioner Kestutis Kuizinas presents the work of artist Darius Mikšys in Lithuania's display entitled "Behind the White Curtain" at the Scuola S. Pasquale.
The work of artists Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil is being shown in an exhibit curated by Kevin Muhlen and Jo Kox and commissioned by René Kockelkorn at the Ca' del Duca.
The Palazzo Pesaro Papafava will host two shows in the Macedonian display. The first is curated by Emil Aleksiev and commissioned by Toni Catleski with the work of artist Žarko Bašeski. The second is curated by Gorancho Gjorgjievski and commissioned by Maja Krstevska, featuring the work of Art Collective Zero (Aleksander Stankoski, Igor Toshevski, Bedi Ibahim, Zlatko Trajkovski, Sinisha Cvetkovski, Mishko Desovski, Perica Georgiev, Gorancho Gjorgjievski).
"Cuadrado rojo, rosa imposible (Red Square Impossible Pink)," as the show is called, features a video collaboration between Melanie Smith and Rafael Ortega titled "Aztec Stadium/Malleable Deed," "Xilitla: Dismantled 1," and "Package," consisting of videos exploring "three affections belonging to heterotopic modernity: delirium, compulsion and melancholy." It takes place at Palazzo Rota Ivancich, Castello 4421.
At the Galleria d'Arte Ill Millennio, the work of artists Valeria Duca and Nicoleta Stati will be on display. The work of Art Group Moë (Aliona Kononova, Igor Avramenko, Mark Verlan) will be showing at Antico Squero San Trovaso.
Commissioned and curated by Svetlana Racanovic and Petar Cukovic and in collaboration with the Marina Abramovic Community Center, "The Fridge Factory and Clear Waters" features the work of Obod Cetinje, Ilija Šoškic, Natalija Vujoševic. The exhibit is being held at Palazzo Malipiero.
Artists Joke Robaard, Johannes Schwartz, and Barbara Visser will collaborate with designers Maureen Mooren and EventArchitectuur to represent the Netherlands at the 2011 Biennale. According to pavilion curator Guus Beumer, this multidisciplinary partnership was inspired by opera, which combines various disciplines to achieve a single artistic product. The Netherlands will exhibit in the coveted Giardini space. Dutch artist and photographer Joke Robaard was originally trained in fashion, and her photography investigates the relationship between clothing and behavior. Fellow photographer Johannes Schwartz has exhibited at the Cobra Museum, Van Zoetendaal, and Ronmandos in Amsterdam. Interdisciplinary artist Barbara Visser was featured in Venice's 2010 Architecture Biennale.
Michael Parekowhai has been picked to represent New Zealand, a selection that the country's National Business Review declared "the most appropriate [decision] that has been made in recent years." Parekowhai received the Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award in 2001 and works as an associate professor at Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts. His sculptures are often made from found objects — previous works have involved a Volkswagen van and a grand piano — which he alters to comic effect. Last year, New Zealand's exhibition, which drew 114,000 visitors, featured the work of Judy Millar and Francis Upritchard.
For its representation at the Biennale, Norway has taken the somewhat quirky path of curating a series of public lectures: "The State of Things," a wide-ranging series of lectures by heavy-duty thinkers such as Franco Berardi, Leo Bersani, Judith Butler, T.J. Clark, Jan Egeland, Fawaz Gerges, Jacques Rancière, Saskia Sassen, Vandana Shiva, and Eyal Weizman. Also courtesy Norway:"Beyond Death: Viral Discontents and Contemporary Notions about AIDS," by Bjarne Melgaard and a large group of college students, curated by Marta Kuzma, Pablo Lafuente, and Peter Osborne.
Yael Bartana, Poland's choice for the 2011 Biennale, is a video artist born in Israel who splits her time between Amsterdam and Tel Aviv. She has had solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, and PS1 in New York. Her work has been featured at the 2007 Documenta 12 and the 2010 Sao Paulo Biennale. Bartana's photography, film, and sound works investigate questions surrounding society, spirituality, and politics. The Israeli artist first became interested in exploring the nation of Poland four years ago, when she began her Polish Trilogy, a series of films that examine nineteenth and twentieth-century Europe as a historic homeland for Ashkenazi Jews.
Curator Sérgio Mah has selected Francisco Tropa, a sculptural installation artist who lives and works in Lisbon, to represent Portugal at the 2011 Biennale. Tropa plans an installation of magic lantern sculptures that project images onto plaster screens. In 2003, the artist also exhibited his work in Venice as part of the "Dreams and Conflicts" exhibition organized by Francesco Bonami, who was curator of that year's Biennale.
Bringing political concerns to the fore, "Performing History" includes work by Ion Grigorescu, Anetta Mona Chisa, and Lucia Tkacova in a show curated by Maria Rus Bojan, and Ami Barak. A "Romanian Cultural Resolution-documentary" by Adrian Bojenoiu and Alexandru Niculescu will also be involved offsite at the Istituto Romeno di Cultura e Ricerca Umanistica.
Philosopher and art critic Boris Groys, the curator of the Biennale's Russian pavilion, has selected the artist Andrei Monastyrsky and his art sestet Collective Actions to represent the country in the international exhibition. An artist who began working in the 1970s, Monastyrsky has pursued a practice that has thumbed its nose at Russia's ruling powers, from the ailing Soviet politburo to the rampantly capitalist regime that followed, through its very exuberant indifference to the prevailing fashion. Working with performances, sculptures, poems, photography, and other diverse mediums, Monastyrsky began collaborating with other artists in 1976 under the rubric of Collective Actions — a group that today is composed of himself and Elena Elagina, Sabina Hensgen, Igor Makarevich, Nikolai Pantikov, and Sergei Romashko — realizing 124 "actions" and compiling 10 books of texts stemming from their artworks. In a statement, Groys called Monastyrsky "a contemporary artist in the fullest sense of the word" who "does not restrict himself to any specific method or genre." The Russian pavilion will be produced by Stella Art Foundation, whose founder, Stella Kesaeva, the art-collecting wife of Mercury Group billionaire Igor Kesaev, is the exhibition's commissioner.
"Luce In-azione," in a nod toward Bice Curiger's theme for "ILLUMInations," involves work by a broad swath of artists: Dorothee Albrecht, Marco Bravura, Cristian Ceccaroni, Daniela Comani, Ottavio Fabbri, Verdiano Manzi, Patrizia Merendi, Omar Paolucci, Cristina Rotondaro, Lars Teichmann, Thea Tini, Daniela Tonelli, and Paola Turroni. It has been curated by Valerio Pradal, together with a seven-person "scientific committee," at the Palazzo Riva del Vin.
For its first-ever appearance at the Biennale, Saudi Arabia will present "The Black Arch," a meditation on Mecca and Venice via an abstract sculpture onto which images of the two cities will be projected. It's the work of two sisters, visual artist Shadia Alem and writer Raja Alem. The pavilion's commissioner is Abdulaziz Alsebail, and it is curated by Mona Khazindar and Robin Start.
Sculptor Karla Black is Scotland's pick for the biennale, continuing the country's trend of selecting emerging and midcareer artists. The Scottish pavilion will be curated by Edinburgh-based nonprofit the Fruitmarket Gallery. Born in Scotland in 1972, Black's work often takes the form of bright or light colored sculptures and installations utilizing materials like sugar, paper, chalk, powder, paint, and plaster. She has showed work at Mary Mary in Glasgow, IBID Projects in London, and Inverleith House in Edinburgh. Earlier this year, Black was featured in a two-person show with Nate Lowman at Andrea Rosen gallery in New York, reviewed in Modern Painters magazine. Past Scottish representatives to Venice have included Martin Boyce (2009); Charles Avery and Lucy Skaer (as part of a six-artist group in 2007); Alex Pollard (as part of a four-artist group in 2005); and Claire Bishop, Jim Lambie, and Simon Starling (in 2003).
"Light and Darkness of the Symbols" features Dragoljub Raša Todosijevic and has been curated by Sanja Kojic Mladenov. The show also picks up on the Biennale's theme of "ILLUMInations," referencing the work of Tintoretto as well as his luminescent peers Veronese and Carpaccio to create a determined link between the Serbian pavilion, the overall exhibition, and Venice itself.
Thirty-five-year old artist, writer, and filmmaker Ho Tzu Nyen will represent his native Singapore in Venice this summer. Nyen has exhibited his film and painting installations at the 2004 Sao Paulo Biennale and the 2005 Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale. In 2009, his films were screened at the Cannes Film Festival and the 66th Venice International Film Festival. Nyen also writes regularly on film and the visual arts, and is the Singapore Desk Editor for the magazine Art Asia Pacific. "It is important, I think, to keep to one's own trajectory, and to use the biennale to produce the work that one needs to do," Nyen said in a 2006 interview about the role of the biennale in contemporary art. The pavilion organizer, June Yap, is an independent curator based in Singapore.
Mirko Bratuša has made "Heaters for Hot Feelings," an installation of eight anthro- and biomorphic sculptures with interlinked heating and cooling systems. At Galleria A+A, it has been organized by curator and commissioner Nadja Zgonik.
For "Desire: Ideal Narratives in Contemporary South African Art," Thembinkosi Goniwe has gathered work by Siemon Allen, Lyndi Sales, and Mary Sibande and the Torre di Porta Nuova in the Arsenale Nuovissimo.
Arts Council Korea has announced that it has tapped artist Lee Yong-baek for the exhibition. A graduate of Hongik University in Seoul and the Stuttgart State Academy of Art in Germany, he is known for videos, sculptures, paintings, and performances that focus on religious and political issues. "Lee Yong-baek's biggest strength is that he has a wide spectrum of works both in terms of genre and contents, based on his use of various technologies," said Yun Chea-gab, who has been picked as the commissioner of the country's pavilion. Yun previously served as executive director of the multinational Arario Gallery, which has shown Lee's work in New York. South Korea has participated in the Venice Biennale since 1995.
Curator Katya García-Antón selected artist Dora García to represent Spain at the 2011 Venice Biennale. "Dora Garcia is an artist who is interested in analyzing the paradigms and conventions of art, and who has frequently challenged notions of power and the way in which it operates. Her work is also directed at demystifying the relationship between artist and audience, and using fiction to question the ethical and moral elements of this relationship," said García-Antón in a statement. García, who will show at the prestigious Giardini this year, has exhibited at various institutions including the Hyde Park Art Center, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and Artists Space. She was included in February's "Museum as Hub: The Accords" exhibition at the New Museum in New York alongside Poland's representative at the 2011 Biennale, Yael Bartana. Pavilion curator Katya García-Antón is the director of the Centre d'Art Contemporain in Geneva and a former art critic for the BCC World Service.
The Scandinavian nation has picked artists Fia Backström and Andreas Eriksson to represent Sweden in the Biennale's Nordic pavilion, which this year will be curated by Magnus af Petersens, head of exhibitions and collections at Moderna Museet. Backström, who is based in New York, has seen her work — performances that critique the institutions in which they are enacted — displayed in the 2008 Whitney Biennial and the 2009 edition of Performa. Her piece "The Worker Through the Ages" was performed at this year's Moderna Exhibition. Eriksson, meanwhile, counts among his accolades the 2007 Art Balois Prize from the Art Basel "Statement" section and a 2008 solo show at Vienna's Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig. His paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations, and films address the rural province of Västmanland, where Eriksson lives and keeps his studio after having fled Berlin, where he suffered from electromagnetic hypersensitivity to the urban environment. In previous editions of the Venice Biennale, the Nordic pavilion has housed work from Sweden, Finland, and Norway, but for the next three years, the countries will take turns presenting their artists, with Sweden at bat first with a solo show in 2011.
Swiss officials announced that Thomas Hirschhorn and Andrea Thal have been picked to represent Switzerland at the Biennale in 2011. Hirschhorn, a Paris-based artist who was born in Bern, Switzerland, is perhaps best known for large-scale installations patched together with duct tape and tinfoil that address issues of left-wing politics and globalization. His participation in past international exhibitions has sometimes taken the form of radical interventions, as at Documenta XI in 2002, when he built his installations in a town a few miles from the exhibition's home base of Kassel, Germany, forcing people to travel to see the work in a modest suburb. Thal is a comparatively lesser known figure. She runs Les Complices*, an artist-run gallery space in Zürich, and has organized show and projects focused on music and performance. In 2009, Switzerland sent Silvia Bächli and Fabrice Gygi to Venice, in 2007 Ugo Rondinone was tapped, and in 2005 Pipilotti Rist was picked alongside the artists Ingrid Wildi, Gianni Motti, Shahryar Nashat, and Marco Poloni. Despite its modest size and its supposed neutrality in international conflicts, Switzerland has proved to be a fierce competitor on the international art stage, hosting the world's most prestigious contemporary art fair (Art Basel) and rearing many of the art world's most formidable power players.
For its third appearance at the Biennale, Syria has planned a group show titled "Evolution." The pavilion commissioner is Christian Maretti and it is co-curated by Fabio Anselmi and Sandro Orlandi. The participating artists are Nemat Badawi, Nizar Sabour, Rima Salamoun, Sabhan Adam, Talal al Abdalla, Bernard Aubertin, Salvo Pastorello, Beppe Bonetti, Renato Mambor, Piero Mottola, Ivan Lardschenider, and PG-SLIS. An international collaboration, Syria's pavilion includes some participating artists who hail from other countries.
Navin Rawanchaikul has created "Paradiso di Navin: A Mission to Establish Navinland," a show at the Paradiso Gallerie that endeavors to function as a para-pavilion claiming recognition for the artist's own country, which stands apart from its bickersome neighbors in the international community but yet has a role on the global stage. The pavilion has been curated by Pandit Chanrochanakit and Steven Pettifor.
The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts selected Ayse Erkman to represent Turkey at the 54th Venice Biennale. Erkmen is known for ephemeral, volatile site-specific sculptures and installations, like 2011's "Shipped Ships," in which she transported three ferry boats from locations all over the world to Frankfurt's Main River. Erkman has participated in the 2nd and 4th Istanbul Biennales, among other international exhibitions. She lives and works in Instanbul and Berlin and has been teaching at Münster Kunstakademie since 2010. Pavilion curator Fulya Erdemci is the director of SKOR Foundation for Art and Public Domain in Amsterdam. She was co-curator of the 25th Sao Paulo Biennale in 2002 and a curator at the 2nd Moscow Contemporary Art Biennale in 2007.
United Arab Emirates
For its sophomore effort at the Venice Biennale, the United Arab Emirates will be represented by artists Reem Al Ghaith, Abdullah Al Saadi, and Lateefa Bint Maktoum. Pavilion curator Vasif Kortun interviewed 30 Emirati artists before selecting the trio, who work in installation, drawing, and photography. Kortun is the director of research and programs at the SALT cultural center and the founding director of Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center in Istanbul. He also curated Turkey's inaugural pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale. This year's UAE exhibition is titled, "Second Time Around," a reference to the nation's second year exhibiting at the international event. In addition to her work as an artist, Lateefa Bint Maktoum is the founder of Tashkeel, a public studio that offers Emirati artists studio space and support. Of his vision for the biennale, Kortun said, "the pavilion will not be curated around concepts but around artistic positions, as if three independent projects form a coherent exhibition structure pivoting around the works of three artists."
Curators Achille Bonito Oliva and Oleksiy Rogotchenko have organized