Bice Curige director of the 54th Venice Biennale
Bice Curiger, editorial director Tate Etc. magazine and director of the 54th Venice Biennale.

This year’s Venice Biennale has been curated by Tate Etc. magazine’s editorial director Bice Curiger. Laid out in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini, as well as the Arsenale, it features 83 artists from across the world. The title of the 54th exhibition, ILLUMInations, has the 16th century artist Tintoretto as its starting point, and the artist’s work forms an impressive initial focus in the Central Pavilion before you see the work by contemporary artists. Why Tintoretto? And why in the Biennale? As Bice explains: “In the work of many contemporary artists (the ones who interest me the most), I find the same search for light, both rational and febrile, that animates some of Tintoretto’s later works. Tintoretto too was worried about overturning the conventions of his time, through a near reckless approach to composition that overturns the well-defined, classical order of the Renaissance. I am interested in the light in those paintings, which is not rational but ecstatic.”

Here we present a photo-diary of selected highlights from Bice’s Biennale.

Philippe Parreno's Marquee
Philippe Parreno's Marquee 2011

 At the entrance to the Central Pavilion, one of the first works you encounter is Philippe Parreno’s dazzling light piece Marquee which hangs above the door that leads into the room of three Tintoretto paintings.

Gianni Colombo Spazio Elastico
Gianni Colombo's Spazio Elastico 1967–8

 On a small side room near Parreno’s work is Gianni Colombo’s installation Spazio Elastico (1967-1968), recreated for the Biennale and made up of a beautifully illuminated three dimensional cubic grid of elastic bands, through which you could (with a bit of difficulty) walk around. The picture above is taken from waist height looking up into the room. Colombo was fascinated by kinetics, and many of his works explored the visual expression of movement and light. Spazio Elastico won Colombo a prize at the 1968 Venice Biennale.

Urs Fischer's Untitled
Is this a curator? Urs Fischer's Untitled 2011 at the Arsenale.

 Urs Fischer’s wax sculptures at the Arsenale includes this life-sized male figure, an office chair, and a replica of Giambologna’s The Rape of the Sabine Women. They are, in fact, three giant candles that will remain lit for the duration of the Biennale, or at least as long as they take to melt away.

Nathaniel Mellors Hippy Dialectics
Nathaniel Mellors Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse) 2010

 Nathaniel Mellors’ Hippy Dialectics (Ourhouse), 2010, with moving parts and voices…

Monika Sosnowska's para-pavilion Antechamber 2011
Stories within stories: Monika Sosnowska's para-pavilion Antechamber 2011

 One of the great new features of this Biennale is the introduction of special ‘para-pavilions’ in which four artists (Monika Sosnowska, Franz West, Song Dong, and Oscar Tuazon) have created strucutres in which to present works by other artists. Here is a picture of Polish artist Monika Sosnowska’s para-pavilion Antechamber (2011) in the central pavilion of the Giardini, which includes David Goldblatt’s photographic series Ex-Offenders at the Scene of Crime (2010) produced in his native South Africa.

Loris Greaud Geppetto Pavilion 2011
All mod cons inside the whale: Loris Gréaud's Geppetto Pavilion 2011

 Loris Gréaud’s sculpture of a big whale Geppetto Pavilion is installed in sand at the Arsenale. Taking his inspiration from Moby Dick and the story of Jonah, Gréaud ‘s 55 foot fibreglass sperm whale wants the the viewer to imagine being swallowed whole, and confined to a life in the belly of the whale…

Homage to Grandma: Yto Barrada's The Telephone Books (or the Recipe Books) 2011
Homage to Grandma: Yto Barrada's The Telephone Books (or the Recipe Books) 2011

 Here is an installation view of Yto Barrada’s photographic series The Telephone Books (or the Recipe Books) (2011) showing the notebooks used by Barrada’s illiterate grandmother who created her own system of communication with her familty through images and symbols.

Song Dong's Parapavilion 2011
Song Dong's Parapavilion 2011

 Chinese artist Song Dong rebuilt his family home at the Arsenale, and the para-pavilion was used as a space to bring together the work of Frances Stark, Cyprien Gaillard and Yto Barrada.

Nicholas Hlobo's Limpundulu Zonke Ziyandilandela 2011
Nicholas Hlobo's Limpundulu Zonke Ziyandilandela 2011

 Is it a snake? Or a dragon? South African born Nicholas Hlobo’s Iimpundulu Zonke Ziyandilandela (2011) is made from rubber and ribbon.

Llyn Foulkes, Where Did I Go Wrong
Llyn Foulkes, Where Did I Go Wrong? 1991

 The underrated Californian-based artist Llyn Foulkes born in 1934, shows one of his painting in the Giardini.

Franz West's para-pavilion Extroversion
Franz West's para-pavilion Extroversion 2000–11

 Winner of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 54th Venice Biennale (along with Sturtevant), Franz West created a Extroversion, a recreation of his kitchen in Vienna, but turned inside out - with the ‘exterior’ showing a mix of artworks by his friends.




the light is already there in the eyes of our youth it is the light that searches it is not something found .It asks so much of the young to have to aspire to this affluent onslaught ,each youth their own Bateau Ivre unlike the one blocking the light in more ways than one in Venice.Beautiful Venice,now there's a metaphor!

Dana Finch

Thanks for this insight - it looks fantastic and I want to go. Great pictures too.

Jenneveve Hood

Wonderful spatial art!!! I love the light sculptures and the whale is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. I will definitely visit the Tate museum when I come to England!!