The Biennale in Venice 2022 – See what I’ve seen of both (Part 2)

Venice, Italy & Lund, Sweden in November 2022

Part 1

Venezia! There is art everywhere. You can’t walk 100 metres along the very narrow alleyways where sometimes only two persons can pass each other without seeing some art – street art, gallery, museum, foundation, or art palazzo.

Venice is a multi-dimensional piece of art. Walking through it from one exhibition to the next feels like I assume those felt who explored new lands hundreds of years ago.

I see old Venice as one integrated organic art garden with countless small flowers, bushes, trees and whole forests of visual art. Art holism. Every single creation lives in the others, and the others live in each. Each exhibition is an element in the biggest artwork anywhere called Venice.

Fondation Valmont

Let’s start out with skincare and fragrances. Whaaat?

Yes, go to La Maison Valmont, and you’ll see it’s a company selling worldwide including in China. The story is that the idea, the personalities and, I assume, the money for Fondation Valmont – Palazzo Bonvicini in a tiny alleyway in Venice comes from there. (Just scroll down and you’ll find it). Here is this amazing art foundation’s homepage. During The Biennale, they had a couple of fine exhibitions – and do I have to say that this Palazzo too is a gem of beauty?

The foundation’s slogan is: When Arts Meet Beauty. It’s a family undertaking, art-collecting father and son. Here from its homepage:

“In 2015, Didier Guillon gives birth to Fondation Valmont an institution hosting his collection and dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art by supporting young artists.

In 2018, Palazzo Bonvicini became the main headquarter of Fondation Valmont.

The exhibitions held in this typical 16th-century Venetian palace contribute significantly to the Venetian art scene by presenting every year collective projects. Didier Guillon shares his passion for art… from one generation to the next… there’s only one mask! The roots of art, the ultimate ambition. Maxence joins Didier Guillon in his discoveries and creations.”

Not only is this a combination of business and art. Didier and Valentine Guillon have created a video series which is described here and which, as I interpreted it is an anti-war plea for a better future for us all, in harmony with Nature and its beauty:

Just a few seconds of excerpts that I shot with my iPhone in that dark room. Apologies for the quality of the colours that do not do justice to the videos. But giving you a sense of the idea.

So business, art and peace in one go. Very heartwarming – and unique in the sense that so few artists today, also at the Biennale, address the themes of war, imperialism, conflict and peace despite the times we live in. Or perhaps because of them and the subconscious threat of extinction we also have to cope with?

Cameroon’s Pavilion

Afterwards, I happened to pass by Cameroon’s Art Space – “The Times of the Chimeras” – and what an exciting revelation, seemingly devoted to NFT but much more than that including brilliant photography:

Palazzo Vendramin Grimani Bosco Sodi

Cameroon happened on my way to Palazzo Vendramin Grimani where I had seen that Mexican artist, Bosco Sodi, filled its beautiful rooms with his different types of art and colours. See a series of videos here with him. In the first one about the finissage on November 27, you’ll see him give away lots of the clay balls that filled a whole room in the palace (oh, how I wish I had been there…) Here are more of his works.

I love the amazing contrast between his works and that palazzo – but then again, they’re not only contrasting, but they are also melting in, and many were made site-specific for Vendramin Grimani. Here are some of my shots – and you can enlarge each by double-clicking on it:

Palazzo Grimani – Georg Baselitz and Mary Weatherford

Next – the always worth-a-visit Palazzo Grimani where, in 2019, I saw the unforgettable exhibition of works by US artist Helen Frankenthaler. This year it hosted two artists, Georg Baselitz and Mary Weatherford. Designboom has made a fine article with photos and videos about the palace and Baselitz.

Here first a few shots of Baselitz’s site-specific works:

I confess that Baselitz’s paintings do not speak that much to me, and also not his sculptures. But that is my subjective feeling or problem; it was anyhow a fine exhibition well worth seeing. Again, it illustrates how an artist can make these unique rooms come alive and how the best of architecture and art can always be combined.

Mary Weatherford’s paintings were new to me. But what I did not get to terms with was her idea of placing neon light tubes down in front of them:

In these works, she is inspired by Titian’s The Flaying of Marsyas (c. 1570–76) – read about it in Apollo and Wallpaper. And – fortunately, I would say – she does a lot of art without the neon tubes – which you can get a sense of here.

Now, I’ve said that these palaces are art pieces in and of themselves. Thus, there are always two types of exhibitions – the artist using the rooms and the rooms framing the artist. Here som shots from Palazzo Grimani. I find it enigmatic how these 600 years old rooms can be seen, often, as containing a lot of abstract, more or less minimalist, art too. All are included in the ticket price…

And who said that selfies were something new?

Walking on…

The Parasol Unit Foundation

Towards the Parasol Unit Foundation’s mixed exhibition at Campiello Pisani near the Academy. There were 11 artists there, all worth seeing – as is the Palazzo itself. But knowing what is happening in Iran these very days, I was particularly touched by Aghavan Khosravis’ three-dimensional works there. More works by her at her homepage:

Bolivia’s Pavilion

The next morning, I walk up towards the northern part, the Canareggio part and the coast close to Fondamenta Nove. There are several art spaces to see, although Holland is closed against the info on its own poster.

On the way we find Bolivia’s intimate national pavilion – countries certainly don’t have the same resources with which to go to Venice.

The works were created, as you can read, by 25 artists and the space packed with history, vision, spirituality, multi-universes and Andean methodology. My wife and I were the only visitors and the two young people present seemed happy and thanked us for stopping by.

I wonder how many of the posh art magazines mentioned a national pavilion such as this. If any. But there are gems everywhere here – so never follow the kind of ranking/hit list-like “The ten Venice Biennale shows you just can’t miss.” There are so many others – if you just spend some time and effort.

Palazzo Donà Dalle Rose – San Marino and a private home with Banksy

On to what would turn out to be a wonderful surprise – Palazzo Doná Dalle Rose close to the Fondamente Nove vaporetto station. It hosted the national pavilion of San Marino but also the owner’s newly opened private home with their art and family photos and more on the top floor. And works by…. Banksy!

Here are some shots from San Mariono’s show “Postumano Metamorfico” which is accompanied by this – in my view gobbledygook-ish – official description that I gladly confess I do not understand:

“Several present-day thinkers take as a given a dichotomy in contemporary reality, and register an increasingly evident divergence between an anthropocentric will to power directed towards a superhuman, hyperhuman, or transhuman condition, and a wish to attain greater awareness of the limits and finitude which can be ascribed to the Posthuman as a bearer of new ethical, environmental, and social values and, at the same time, a filter and tool to connect again – as bodies, as organisms among other organisms – with nature. The metamorphic posthuman we would like to see in our near future will be able to interact with their macrocosm of reference by imagining other forms of coexistence and transformation, thus creating new conditions of existence which are alternative to those we are accustomed to today.”

Not exactly how you help visitors understand what they are to experience. So instead I suggest – just walk in, take it in, think your own thoughts and feel your own feelings:

I had visited this palazzo before but there was no way of getting to the top floor. This time there was. And what a revelation!

Read about it to your left and note the palace is still owned by the family that founded it abut 500 years ago. And today’s family lives there; you are walking into parts of their private home – while I guess they have more than enough living space beyond what the public is permitted into.

But still. What a marvellous idea. You see their own paintings and sculptures, flowers, furniture, cupboards etc – even family photographs.

You only need to meet those people in the chambres behind and be offered a glass of prosecco…

And not only that. Mixed with the original home are works by Banksy. I do not know what the story behind that is – but it is enigmatic to say the least.

The photos below takes you around this totally surprising and very beautiful space.

The Gwangju Biennale

Not far from this but quite a job to find (impossible without a GPS) … something completely different: Art that explains South Korea’s democratization – and trauma – with a focus on the Gwangju May 1980 Uproar or Massacre – this tragic historical event has several names, and you can read about it on Wikipedia. It’s estimated to have cost the lives of between 600 and 2300 people.

And here is a description of the art space that communicates the events about 40 years ago. It’s an ongoing, travelling exhibition and below some photos from it:

Very educative and very moving. Matter-of-factly. You could not not walk through this without sitting down, reading, watching the history video and sensing the pain, the trauma – but also a beautiful way to commemorate, on a constant basis, what was indeed painful but also led to a much more democratic and free South Korea. It is history conveyed through art in a way that is devoid of hatred, propaganda and sentimentality.

And probably therefore both moving and convincing. But one wonders again: How many found this gem of a political art and memory, and how many of the art critics wrote about this?

It’s exhibitions like these mentioned above – and not the least this one – that makes visits to the Venice Biennale so enriching, surprising and diverse.

Art a/is everything. Everything a/is art.

And art as revolution – the 49th Hexagram above.

The Fortuny Museum

A must-see when in Venice. Every time. Mostly, perhaps, for the museum and its huge collections more than for the changing modern art exhibitions. But still!

For me, it is, first of all, a place of immense beauty and diverse historical and artistic curiosity embodied in the restless and wealthy collector and his family’s mind – Mariano Fortuny (1871-1949). He was born in Granada in Spain and died in this palace, Palazzo Pesaro Orfei.

What you see is a universe of concrete material, sensory and sensual objects/textures of beauty in the fields of textile design, fashion design, painting, sculpture, photography and theatre stage lighting. He was amazingly multi-talented in inventing, painting, photography, sculpting, architecture, etching and theatrical stage lighting.

It’s official homepage here. Many have been overwhelmed by the place’s consistent beauty. See various articles about Museo Fortuny here, here and here. And about the factory – 100 years old in 2022 – at the Giudecca in Venice here. A link collection here. And, finally, the UK-homepage with all the Fortuny products. Dive into the Fortuny world’s material elegance, aesthetics and vision to your heart’s desire. The best you can do before going there.

Because of the flooding in 2019, the Museum has recently re-opened after a partial renovation. Objects and exhibition rooms have changed. Here are some of my photos from this 2022 visit. It starts with a partial view of the main hall:

The contemporary art exhibition at the time consisted of works by Phil Sims, born 1940. More of his works on Artsy. They look like monochromes, but then there is more to them as I’ve tried to show in these two works from 1995. I really like them in their subtle, minimalist appearance.

In lieu of a conclusion

• I live for years on the joys, inspiration and humanity that the Biennale, all the “collateral” spaces and Venice itself so generously give me. I’ll always go there.

• I have no conclusions as to what is better or worse than something else. I don’t do rankings, and I am no art critic, I am an art recommender.

• It’s been possible for me to only convey a fraction of the 2022 Biennale and Venice to you. Of the total of 202 pavilions and other exhibition spaces, I visited 37 and only wrote about some of those 37. In addition, I make no claims to have been representative. I like the unplanned exploration. In addition, about 40 of the spaces had already closed when my wife and I were there towards its end in November.

• I have not given credit to all artists and their works here. If you are a connoisseur, you may know them already; if not, you’ll anyhow have forgotten them shortly after having read my spontaneous report. But do study the many links.

And now some points of perhaps more lasting value, or so I hope:

• With one leg in the sphere of global politics, conflicts and peace and all that – and the other in the art world as an art photographer, I can’t help thinking: What if in the political world there were just 1% of the searching, experimenting, curiosity, introspection and will to change – I avoid the worn-out term creativity – one finds in the art world? I’m positive that it would be a much better world, the world that is possible.

• Judging from what I’ve seen, artists must be much more happy people than political decision-makers. Unhappy people do (self)destructive things to the larger world, to humanity. But do artists? I don’t think so.

• In their wonderful, learned and well-written book, Art As Therapy (Phaidon Press 2013), Alain de Botton and John Armstrong argue that art can have seven functions – I would guess even more but these are fine:

1. Remembering
2. Hope
3. Sorrow
4. Rebalancing
5. Self-understanding
6. Growth
7. Appreciation

I think that what I’ve seen gives me all of that. And more. And it’s given me joy to write about it here. Simply sharing what I have seen. And perhaps – hopefully – stimulating just one reader to go there.

So a big ‘Thank you!’ to all those artists and curators, all those passionate global life-saving art enthusiasts who created Venice over the centuries and those who create the one and only Biennale and keep changing it every second year.

It lives and vibrates – and moves us – because it embodies a basic life truth: the only constant is change.

Also, welcome to browse my photographics works from Venice.

Finally, a few street – or, rather wall – photographs by me. As I said, there is art everywhere…