Last month, I posted a blog about the Refinery29’s 29Rooms exhibition in Brooklyn which I guess is some sort of art exhibition, but not really. It was 100% designed for Instagram photos. The exhibition actually kind of infuriated me because it was “art” designed for commercialized narcissism. And while it was fun, it just wasn’t very special.
I’m a firm believer that art in itself can be fun. It can also be interactive AND meaningful, and thankfully that’s what I discovered at this year’s Venice Biennale when I visited earlier this year
Read more: Art is Boring
The Biennale is a thing I’ve heard about for years. I’d always just nod along as if I knew what it was all about, but it wasn’t until I found myself on the far end of the islands that I really understand just what the Biennale is. As an arts organization, they run Venice’s major exhibitions every year. The Art Biennale takes place on odd-numbered years and the Venice Biennale of Architecture takes place on even-numbered years.
Visiting this year, an even-numbered year, I had the chance to experience the Architecture exhibits. With just a day in the city, there wasn’t enough time to see it all, so I visited the Giardini della Biennale part of the exhibition. It’s a large park which houses 30 permanent national pavilions—each the property of the individual countries showcasing at the exhibit and managed by their respective ministries of culture.
It’s a pretty special place. A part of the island set aside specifically for art every year—and it’s no small place.
Venice Biennale of Architecture 2018
This year is the 16th International Architecture Exhibition which began in May and runs until November 25, 2018. The year’s theme FREESPACE describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda.
When you walk into the garden, you’re immediately struck by the strangeness of some of the most immediately visible buildings—each with their own architectural style. Here were a few of my favorite exhibits:
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Czech and Slovak Republic
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My favorite of the exhibitions was Austria’s take on FREESPACE in an exhibition titled Thoughts Form Matter. I did really enjoy the winning exhibition from Switzerland—a bizarre playhouse which played with size and space, but it was a part of Austria’s exhibition by Sagmeister & Walsh which included a typographic video with a voice talking about beauty and function as the words were created and destroyed in front of you.
My day at the Biennale was special for a lot of reasons. It was the chance to really explore the art. The way the Biennale gardens are set up means you’re walking in and outdoors—through different buildings and across Venice to really see the exhibitions. That physicality requires effort and energy. It’s not a passive experience where you follow a pre-set path set up by a curator.
Rather, the exhibitions at the Biennale allow you to explore in your own way at your own pace. I was lucky to visit on a weekday when the crowds weren’t so bad, but I think the flexibility of the space makes it a more enjoyable art experience regardless. And of course there were still plenty of great opportunities for selfies, but the placards and flyers available also made the art approachable on an intellectual level.
Because each country curates their own exhibition space, some are more comprehensive than others. The United States offered a detailed display about the world today, through the lens of society and architecture, with more facts and information than art. I felt like I actually learned something there, though the art was a little less dynamic than in other parts of the Biennale.
All together, I left the Venice Biennale feeling inspired and motivated. So many of the exhibitions were thought-provoking and even months later, I find myself still thinking about them, about the ideas that the curates presented. Art should make us think and it should make us feel. It should also inspire us.
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The Biennale Architettura 2018 runs until November 25, 2018. Tickets are available to purchase online or at the ticket office on site for 25€. The Giardini exhibition space is open daily 10am–6pm, closed on most Mondays.
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Very informative. Amazing read.
The purpose of art should always be to provoke thought and conversation. Art is subjective; we don’t always like the same art, but even if we don’t like a piece of art, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t inspire or move us in some way. When I go on vacation, I love to collect art. I prefer to buy a piece of local art rather than some tacky souvenir. I have picked up some wonderful paintings and sculpture over the years – my favourite piece is a small acrylic abstract painting from a local artist in Barbados. It reminds me of a wonderful vacation I had with my late wife.
Hmm.. yet another reason to go back to Venice
Wonderful! but we’re biased towards Prague, obviously ;)