On Wednesday 18 September 2019 I will host a Clay Conversation in Venice, starting at the Ateneo Veneto, site of Edmund de Waal’s commission, ‘Psalm’.
I have just returned to Norwich from a sweltering Venice and am sitting at my ‘HQ’ in Upper St Giles Street enjoying the cooler temperatures and reflecting on all that I have seen and absorbed over the previous few weeks and months.
Back in May I made a short trip to the opening of the 58th Biennale, spending a day at the Giardini and half a day at the Arsenale. The selection by Hayward Director, Ralph Rugoff for the two main curated shows was entirely of living artists, a decision that kept the exhibition fresh and dynamic, with artists from across the world, many of whom are young and little known. The selection was both thoughtful and though-provoking, but I did feel that there were some strange juxtapositions of artists and work and a degree of overcrowding. For example, who would have put Shilpa Gupta’s wonderful untitled security gate alongside a moving lifesize cow by Chinese artist, Nabuqi? It just felt as if a little too much had been crammed in with little consideration of how the works would sit together.
Some of the collateral shows that accompany the Biennale however, are extremely successful and excellent examples of how to encourage visitors to slow down and take time with each piece of work. Recently I visited ‘Luogo e Segni’ at the Punta Della Dogana, a wonderful and minimally curated show in the amazing spaces of the former Customs House, now administered by the David Roberts Foundation. The difference of course is that this space can draw on the amazing collection of the foundation and is supported by its huge resources. It shows that a ‘less is more’ approach to curating big group shows, although somewhat unfashionable, does give the visitor a chance to really occupy the space and look at the work with greater focus.
On my recent trip I also visited a wonderful exhibition at the Fondazio Querini Stampalia, a combination of a living and a dead artist in the context of an historical collection. The exhibition, entitled ‘Dire il Tiempo’ (say the time) included recent commissions by Mariateresa Sartori alongside older works by Roman Opalka that deal with language and the passage of time. They had been carefully placed within the historic building, alongside Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sumptuous stuccoed and frescoed interiors. Not an easy environment to successfully intervene into but done with a light touch, it worked well. The placement of monochrome drawings and pinhole camera photographs into the spaces in the centre of decorated borders, where historic paintings would have been in the past, was particularly successful.
I am looking forward to my next visit in September to conduct a walk starting at the Ateneo Veneto, site of Edmund de Waal’s ‘Psalm’ and then visiting two contemporary ceramicists working in the city.
Book your place on this free walk on 18 September at 11am here: