53rd Annual 2009 Venice Biennale

Over the next five days, DailyServing.com will bring exclusive coverage of this year’s 53rd Annual Venice Biennale. DailyServing writers Arden Sherman and Kelly Nosari traveled to Venice earlier this month and attended the exhibitions, and over the next five days will report on some of the most noteworthy work in this year’s Biennale.

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Despite the tough economic times and talk of a more “serene biennale,” the 2009 Venice Biennale remains a fervent display of blue chip art and its dedicated following. Exhibition curator Daniel Birnbaum has stayed committed to his title of Making Worlds by including both established and emerging artists in the international fair. “My hope is that the Biennale does not merely present fragments of something that has been broken down” Birnbaum has said, contextualizing the Biennale in the current financial market, “but will offer a glimpse of something still to come–if not a new and totally coherent vision, then at least as an emerging plurality of possibilities” (interview with Artforum, May 2009).

The most notable change in this year’s exhibition is the opening of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. Formally the Italian Pavilion, the Palazzo houses half of the Making Worlds exhibition and will remain open to the public year-round, providing a place for future, multi-disciplinary projects. To emphasize this new permanence, Birnbaum invited artists Tobias Rehberger, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Massimo Bartolini to create functional spaces within the Palazzo. Rehberger, for his part–a fully functioning cafeteria–received the Golden Lion for the best artist of the exhibition, the highest of Biennale honors. In addition to the Making Worlds exhibition in both the Palazzo and the Arsenale (the former warehouse of the Venetian fleet), the historic national pavilions in the Giardini remained vibrant, and 2009 marked the inclusion of first-time participants Montenegro, Principality of Monaco, Republic of Gabon, Union of Comoros, and United Arab Emirates.


Bruce Nauman’s exhibition, Topological Gardens, represented in the first place United States Pavilion, was additionally exhibiting in two other Venice venues, the Universita Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini and the Exhibition Spaces at Universita Ca’ Foscari. American artist John Baldessari was also a big presence in Venice. Besides being presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award (alongside Yoko Ono), Baldessari’s works and interventions could be seen along the Grand Canal, most notably his photo-mural of an oceanfront which covered the entire front-facing facade of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. In addition to today’s art stars, Birnbaum made an effort to represent emerging and, at the other end, even deceased artists like Andre Cadere and Lygia Pape, whose inclusion supported Birnbaum’s concept of a more complete “world”.

The Biennale will be on display until November 22, 2009 and will continue to host collateral performances, lectures and events until closing.