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June 08, 2009

53rd Venice Biennale Opens

Venice Biennale 2009 runs until
November 22.

Photo: using
Creative Commons

by Ondine Cohane

This past weekend marked the opening of the 53rd Venice Biennale, arguably the biggest and most important contemporary art event of its kind. The first week of the extravaganza is full of parties for A-list critics, artists, and other members of the glitterati.  I choose to head to the city a month after it starts so I can see the shows in a more peaceful way. (Note: The event runs until November 22.)

I'll be sure to check out American artist Bruce Nauman's show, which was awarded the Golden Lion prize for best national participation this year--the art equivalent of the Palmes D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. And I always make an effort to hit as many countries' exhibitions as I can; they can be a good introduction to little-known artists. Even the pavilions themselves are works of art, like the Finnish space designed by Alvar Aalto in 1955.

There is no sign of the economic downturn here--it's the biggest Biennale yet with 77 separate exhibits. While I am there I will also want to check out Francois Pinault's contemporary art collection in the new show "Mapping the Studio" with work from artists like Cy Twombly, Rachel Whiteread and Mike Kelley. It will span both buildings that house the French billionaire's foundation, the just opened Punta della Dogana (Venice's old custom house), which was renovated to great effect by Tadao Ando, and Palazzo Grassi, also an Ando undertaking. According to Bloomberg news, Pinault beat out the Guggenheim Foundation for the Dogana space. I love the combination of cutting edge work within centuries-old Italian palaces--it keeps the city vibrant.


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