Highlights of a lightening-speed tour of the Venice Biennale’s Central Pavilion


I gave up on a concise analysis of this year’s Venice Biennial, which being enormous as always, seemed more and more untenable, and so here are some brief highlights of my short visit there. This 55th exhibition, called “The Encyclopedic Palace,” was curated by Massimiliano Gioni (of the New Museum in NYC), and very successfully to this Venice biennial newbie. Overall the central pavilion at Giardini was really good, cohesive, and interesting; there was an intuitive, almost mystic or transcendent theme, in many of the works, keying off an initial display of pages of Jung’s Red Book. Gioni mixed in outsider and/or older artists to rich effect, so it was a little less predictable. In the long halls of the Arsenale (which opened with a model of Auturi’s 1950s Encyclopedic Palace) I thought the exhibition worked less well, with a contemporary Salon-style, throw-everything-on-the-walls-and-impress-via-multiplicity, that was just too much. Also, a glut of video works with competing audio made it difficult to focus.


Ongoing performance by Tino Seghal

Tino Sehgal, who won the Golden Lion for Best Artist, had a trio of performers chant and sing in a kind of mind-meld harmony, in one of the opening rooms of the central pavilion; I loved it. (As a corollary note, another performance, by Ragnar Kjartansson, was perhaps not the most meaningful but thoroughly enjoyable: the Icelandic artist  arranged for a boat, the S.S. Hangover, to glide around the Arsenale with a brass band.)


Model houses by Oliver Croy; behind, 9-11-01 by Jack Whitten.

P1100546 P1100548

Drawings by Jose Antonio Suarez Londono

Cathy Wilkes

Installation by Cathy Wilkes



My real question is if it’s not all too much: literally, just too much art? While this cornucopia is in keeping with the spirit of the Encyclopedic Palace, my philosophy is that there could be less. But I feel that way every time I visit an art fair.

Leave a Reply