Venice Art Biennale 2019: how to see it in one day

The Biennale is a symbol of Venice, and it's open even in these difficult days. Here’s the ideal itinerary for those who never visited it, and for those who would like to visit it again before the end of the exhibition on November 24.

I still remember when, in late November 2015, I ran through the narrow streets of Venice and hopped on and off the water buses trying to experience the Venice Biennale at its fullest. If only I had had a guide with the best things to see at the Biennale, it would have been a much less overwhelming experience. So, to save you the bother, here’s my guide. Hopefully, the recent “acqua alta” (floodings) in Venice won’t stop the most intrepid art lovers. All the stops mentioned in this article are currently open.  

I’d suggest starting with a quick visit to the Venetian Arsenal. Ralph Rugoff’s exhibition seems to concentrate mainly on video works, but since we don’t have much time, I’d focus on Rubber Pencil Devil by Alex Da Corte and No History In A Room Filled With People With Funny Names 5 by Korakrit Arunanondchai. Make sure not to miss the amazing installations by Teresa Margolles, Harris Epaminonda, Anthea Hamilton, and Rosemarie Trockel. The strong presence of female artists is certainly one of the distinctive features of this edition, and their works all describe the role of women in contemporary society with a strong poetic charge.

Anthea Hamilton, The New Life, 2018. Photo Andrea Avezzù
Anthea Hamilton, The New Life, 2018. Photo Andrea Avezzù

At the end of the exhibition, among the National Pavilions in the arsenal, take a look at the “Ghana Freedom” exhibition (Ghana Pavilion) and the “Trans Tropicalia” exhibition (Peru Pavilion). Then, before leaving the Arsenal, try – probably in vain – not to get lost in the “Neither Nor” labyrinth of the Italian Pavilion, while listening to the voices of Chiara Fumai, seeking shelter under the umbrellas of Liana Moro and becoming friends with the characters of Enrico David. On November 22 and 24 it will also be possible to attend the Performance Program by Rugoff and Aaron Cezar at the Arsenal. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the public will enjoy a series of performances by international artists working in the dance, theatre, and visual arts industries; I would definitely go there.

When in the Central Pavilion of the Gardens, you can't miss Sun Yuan and Peng Yun's super instagrammable Kuka robot (futilely trying to clean up a blood-like fluid from the floor) and the iconic slab of serpentine rock by Jimmie Durham, who was awarded this edition's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Be sure to also read the accompanying text of the work, which evokes its political and social implications.

Then, move on to the Korean Pavilion, full of lights, noise, and dancing bodies, and on the Spanish Pavilion, where breathing is the main focus of the work of Itziar Okariz and Sergio Prego. If there aren’t many people waiting in line, visit the Laure Prouvost exhibition in the French Pavilion.

Pavilion of Korea, “History Has Failed Us, but No Matter”. Photo Francesco Galli
Pavilion of Korea, “History Has Failed Us, but No Matter”. Photo Francesco Galli

Out of all the external pavilions scattered around the city, go to the island of Giudecca to visit the extremely fuzzy and colourful Icelandic pavilion. Then, take the catalogue of the Taiwan exhibition by Shu Lea Cheang at the Prison's Palace, in order to read Paul B. Preciado's description, since we do not have enough time to see this complex video installation.

Our time is running out, but I wouldn't miss Kenneth Goldsmith’s “Hillary” exhibition, curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi at the Despar Theatre: Hillary Clinton has just started reading her emails again after the scandal that involved her, becoming an object-subject of art. After a romantic sunset over the quiet lagoon, I suggest finishing the tour at Palazzo Grassi with the “La Pelle” exhibition – a wonderful collection of Luc Tuyman’s paintings.

58. International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia
Venice, Italy
Opening dates:
11 May - 24 November 2019

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