By Way of the Bronx: Laura Bohn Visits the Venice Biennale

The view from the Arsenale, one of the main venues for the Venice Biennale 2013

The view from the Arsenale, one of the venues of the Venice Biennale 2013.

Last March I attended the Bronx Museum of the Arts Spring Gala and Auction where I bought a special trip to Venice during the Art Biennale. It turned out to be one of the best charitable investments I ever made. Thanks to its charismatic director Holly Block, the small Bronx Museum was made the commissioning institution for the United States Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, for which they proposed presenting the work of installation artist Sarah Sze. So, with Holly Block as our wonderful guide, we got to see the amazing installation Sarah Sze made for the pavilion, plus a lot of other extraordinary art (including a fabulous exhibition of the personal collection of the late Spanish painter Antoni Tàpies, curated by Axel Veervordt, at the Museo Fortuny, which I’ll blog about separately), a couple of private palaces, and various other memorable sites. Here are some snapshots of things that caught my eye and my imagination at the Biennale.

Triple Point by Sarah Sze in the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013

Part of Sarah Sze’s installation, Triple Point, in the courtyard of the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013.

Triple Point–Sarah Sze’s wacky installation assembled from aluminum rods and ladders, caution tape and water bottles, sand bags, espresso cups, branches, and faux rocks–started in the courtyard of the 1930s Palladian-style pavilion.

Sarah Sze, Triple Point, Venice Biennale, 2013
Triple Point (Planetarium), one of the rooms in the pavilion.

Each room in the pavilion features a different installation assembled from objects the artist found during the three-month construction process. The four makeshift structures evoke a planetarium, an observatory, a laboratory, and a pendulum–devices of measurement or locators of the body in space.

Lara Almarcegui, Spanish Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2013

Lara Almarcegui’s installation in the Spanish Pavilion. 

Lara Almarcegui’s installation in the Spanish Pavilion occupied its entire interior: towering mountains of various construction materials–cement rubble, roofing tiles, and bricks smashed to gravel. In side rooms, there were smaller mounds of sawdust, glass, and a blend of iron slag and ashes. Overwhelming!

Denim dress from Chanel resort collection at the Venice Biennale 2013
Some of the visitors were so chic–like this woman wearing a denim dress from the latest Chanel resort collection–that I couldn’t resist taking a snapshot.

Pendopo: Dancing the Wild Seas by Sri Astari in the Indonesian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013

Pendopo: Dancing the Wild Seas by Sri Astari in the Indonesian Pavilion features seven figures–bedoyo dancers made of wood and leather with steel-mesh garments–in a specially constructed Javanese pendopo. 

For the first time Indonesia had its own pavilion at the Biennale. Five artists created individual installations under the general theme of Sakti, a term that means power, divine energy, creative force, magic, charisma, and much more. It was wonderfully atmospheric.

Cosmic Labyrinth-The Silent Path, by Albert Yonathan Setyawan in the Indonesian pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013

Cosmic Labyrinth:The Silent Path by Albert Yonathan Setyawan comprised 1,200 simple stupa-inspired ceramic vessels set in a labyrinth pattern on the floor, in the Indonesian pavilion.

Instigator of Storms by Eko Nugroho in the Indonesian pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2013

Instigator of Storms by Eko Nugroho in the Indonesian pavilion featured a bamboo raft sitting on used oil barrels, with cartoonish figures afloat on an absent ocean.

Walter de Maria, ‘Art by Telephone’ (1967) (reenacted) at the Venice Biennale 2013

Art by Telephone, an amusing 1967 work by Walter De Maria, was reenacted in the Ca’ Corner della Regina at the Biennale. Unfortunately, the phone didn’t ring while I was there.

The exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013,” organized by the Fondazione Prada at the 18th-century palazzo Ca’ Corner della Regina, reconstructed a seminal exhibition originally staged at the Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland in 1969. It included Walter De Maria’s 1967 Art by Telephone.

Laura Bohn with Charles Ray sculpture Fall '91 at the Venice Biennale, 2013

Me with Fall ’91, a more-than-life-size work by Charles Ray. 

Photographer Cindy Sherman organized a section at the Biennale where visitors were greeted by a giant rag doll, created by Paul McCarthy; nearby was an almost eight-foot-tall sculpture of a blond woman in a blue suit by Charles Ray. Of course, I had to have my picture taken standing beside her.

Lunch packages at the Venice Biennale 2013

Packaged lunch in acrylic and cardboard containers on sale at the Biennale were works of art in their own right. And the food was as delicious as it looked.

Campo de Color by Bolivian artist Sonia Falcone at Venice Biennale 2013

Campo de Color by Bolivian artist Sonia Falcone in the Latin American Pavilion.

In the Latin American Pavilion, Bolivian artist Sonia Falcone covered the floor with hundreds of clay pots filled with spices–cocoa, cayenne, chilli, achiote, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, thyme, mustard, curry, paprika, and more–a dazzling array of reds, greens, blues, yellows, and browns that gave off a delicious swirl of mouthwatering scents.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons and Neil Leonard, 53+1=54+1=55. Letter of the Year, Venice Biennale 2013

53+1=54+1=55. Letter of the Year, an installation by María Magdalena Campos-Pons and Neil Leonard at the Cuban Pavillion. 

In the Cuban Pavilion, ancient marble busts of emperors gazed down on a flock of birdcages by María Magdalena Campos-Pons and collaborator Neil Leonard. Each contained a tiny video telling stories of survival, dreams, and sometimes wishes fulfilled.