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In 1955, the conceptual artist Marino Auriti filed a design with the US Patent office depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico, or 'Encyclopedic Palace' (Fig. 1). Auriti was referring to a sort of ideal, impossible museum for all of humanity's knowledge and this is the theme, chosen by curator Massimiliano Gioni, for the 55th International Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. This year's event, comprising works by over 150 artists from 37 countries, takes place in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini, extending to the adjacent Arsenale. Meanwhile 88 'National Participations' fill the surrounding pavilions and other venues throughout Venice. Of these, 10 are the first by their respective countries, among them the Ivory Coast, which presents work by Frederic Bruly Bouabre, Tamsir Dia, Jems Robert Koko Bi and Franck Fanny.

Indeed, this year's Biennale is reassuringly disparate. Whereas two years ago we saw a great number of high-profile artists featured, in 2013 the focus seems to be on emerging artists, at the expense of marquee names. This is part of the Biennale's appeal; what sets it apart from commercial celebrations like Basel is the opportunity to see new work by upcoming artists. Ireland's Richard Mosse, for example, makes Africa his subject in photographs taken with infrared surveillance film (Fig. 3). To me these pictures evoke Joseph Conrad's Africa: overtly alive; frequently menacing. In Venice Mosse is showing a film for the first time, as part of his multimedia installation The Enclave.

The additional museums, churches and commandeered spaces beyond the traditional exhibition areas are becoming increasingly important, and the 'Collateral Events' they host have achieved near parity with the official Biennale exhibitions. The Palazzo Grassi--now open all year as a space for temporary exhibitions that often draw from the collection of owner Francois Pinault--hosts a monumental Rudolf Stingel exhibition. Next door, at the Punta della Dogana (also under the patronage of Pinault), Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan (interviewed inApollo in October 2011) and Caroline Bourgeois curate 'Prima Materia', an exhibition of 80 works by 30 artists from the Pinault collection set to run all the way through to the end of 2014.

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The art dealer and designer Axel Vervoordt has once again taken over the Palazzo Fortuny. Vervoordt is a master of presentation, combining works from different places and periods in interesting ways, and his Venetian projects often meet with both critical and popular success. This year he co-curates 'The Eye of the Artist', a presentation of work by the late Antoni Tapies (Fig. 2) alongside works from his own collection--including paintings by Joan Miro, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock--and specially commissioned 'homages' to Thpies by living artists such as Kichizaemon Raku, Gunther Uecker and Anthony Caro. Caro is also the subject of a major exhibition at the Museo Correr featuring some of his most important works, including Red Splash (1966) and Garland (1970). Other sculptors showing include Ai Weiwei, at the German Pavilion as well as in a solo show spread across the Zuecca Project Space and Sant'Antonin church, and Marc Quinn, on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Quinn's exhibition features over 50 works, at least 13 of them new.

But the show about which I sense the most excitement is 'When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969 / Venice 2013', at the Fondazione Prada. Curated by Germano Celant, it recreates the seminal Bern Kunsthalle exhibition that included work by some of the most important conceptual artists of the 1960s and '70s (Fig. 4). It is amazing to see how many of the artists who participated then--Carl Andre, Eva Hesse, Mario Merz, Walter De Maria and Bruce Nauman, to name but several--have lasted and are still relevant to younger artists working today. In what was, and is now again, almost an encyclopedic show, they helped redefine art practice after Pop and the colour field and abstract developments of the mid 20th century--this is art at the root of much of what is being made today. Perhaps, then, this is the show to visit first, to see the seed before the fruit it bore.
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Title Annotation:FEATURE: VENICE BIENNALE
Author:Humphries, Oscar
Publication:Apollo
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jun 1, 2013
Words:687
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