Saturday, 9 November 2013

Venice Day 3 - Accademia, Guggenheim and a touch of Biennale

After a busy day one and day two, there was no let up on day three - though I was starting to feel the effects of three intensive days on the trot. I took a little break from Biennale and first hit the Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim collection and few other choice Venetian locations before rounding the day off with a few far flung Biennale exhibitions.

Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia

The jewel in Venice's Renaissance art collection didn't fail to deliver and even though it's undergoing a major refurbishment the works here blew me away in terms of skill and scale. Each artist seemed to have a room dedicated to monumental works, whether it be Carpaccio, Tiepolo or Tintoretto.

But even with the heavyweights of Titian and Veronese present, including a massive version of the last supper by Titian, it was Tintoretto who dominated with a great mixture of Renaissance and Baroque art to create quite brilliant scenes.

Veronese also had a great work with his ascension of the Virgin that surpassed his Last Supper. I'm now looking forward to the exhibition at the National Gallery next year on Veronese.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

This museum had an excellent exhibition on avant garde artists with a strong focus on Pointillism that allowed me to discover Maximillien Luce - an Impressionist artist I hadn't come across and his works are stunning.

The permanent collection is also impressive with a great sculpture garden and great works by Max Ernst. The difficulty with modern art is that it was all created in an age when art had become a commodity, so even though there's no doubting the value and impact of a Picasso, Warhol, Calder, Moore or Pollock, most major modern art collections in the world will have a version of their work.

This makes it difficult to visit a modern art collection abroad and truly be taken aback. This isn't the same for classical artists in that you can't truly experience Tintoretto outside Venice, Monet outside Paris or Rembrandt outside of Amsterdam.

This is not to dismiss the Peggy Guggenheim collection because it is very good, it's just that a tourist from London, especially one as steeped in art as I am, will have seen it all before.

Santa Maria della Saluta

Another magnificent church and this one scores bonus points for being free to enter, allowing photography and having enough light for my camera to work. The works by Giordano impressed but it's the Titian (below) and the central altarpiece that are the true greats - worth the trip out to see this.

Punta della Dogana

This is a modern art collection that is sizeable and magnificently curated, curators who cram too much in take note. Here the works are allowed to breathe and visitors can immerse themselves in each artist before deciding to move on. 

Even though the work was a little hit and miss, highlights include Roni Horn's buckets of water that feel as if they should spill with a heavy footstep but don't, Loris Gireaud's buzzing pulsing lights and some colossal landscapes by Zeng Fanzhi (below).

The best work is tucked away on the top floor only accessible by a different staircase but it's worth discovering. Diana Thater has piled six TV screens on top of each other with the sun seen through different coloured telescopic filters. It's balletic and mesmerising.

Palazzo Grassi

This building has been overtaken by carpet in the extreme covering the floors and walls of all three floors in an encompassing experience with the refreshing introduction stating there's no set way to journey through the exhibition so feel free to explore.

It's in contrast to both the small and minimalist artworks scattered about the place and the ornate ceilings in some rooms. Overall it's a unique experience but never feels like it comes across with a set message or continues to have an impact - once you've seen one room, you've seen them all.

La Biennale

Despite all of this, I did manage to catch some Biennale exhibitions as well, either because they were near some of the above venues, and because I ventured to a set that was north of the city centre. Here are the choice picks plus a few oddballs.

Bangladesh had a rather bizarre Supernatural theme and though their native artists were unspectacular, this work by Gavin Rain stood out as another work that becomes clearer through a camera.

Upstairs was another exhibition and the dramatic photographs by Camini Gorizeni of rooftops and the extreme close ups of the everyday by Giuseppe Borzoi also impressed.

Croatia was a truly bizarre pavilion with a new age Yoko Ono feel to it - including a video of the artist floating down a canal while asleep in a white gondola, and a laptop where you input your dreams. A little too on the nose for me.

I was looking forward to the Angolan pavilion, particularly as it won the Golden Lion for best national pavilion and it was housed above a collection of Renaissance art. There were some interesting sculptures that mixed primitivism with Western influence, with homages to Laocoon and Rodin's Thinker. But other than these it was a rather average display.

Remote Whisper by Pedro Cabrita Reis is another exhibition to run in parallel to the Biennale and at first it doesn't seem like much with steel beams, tube lights and cables snaking around until you follow them and this inorganic creation keeps growing and blocking your path as you progress. By using something purely functional to create a random growth made me re-assess the nature of aesthetics and what can be used to create art.

Kuwait's pavilion is another hidden gem with Tarek Al-Choussein's images of deserted locations where the interpretation changes with the insertion of a lone figure. An empty football stadium would be normal on a non match day but a single spectator imbues the picture with a sense of loneliness. As is suicide introduced when a man on the end of a diving board looks down at an empty pool or a man sits alone in the stock exchange.

Overplay was another collateral exhibition but with all the works having a surreal or humorous feel to it. This piece on the difficulty of obtaining happiness will resonate with everyone.

Near the water and far from other exhibitions stands a lone exhibition where one work stood out as the sound of sloshing water can be heard but doesn't crest the piece of land in focus until the end. It's a hypnotic piece reminiscent of Nicolas Feldmeyer's work but most people won't deem it worth the trek out to it.

The Biennale highlight of the day is called 'Who is Alice' and features an assortment of Korean artists all using the theme of Alice in Wonderland to create delightfully playful and innovative works.

Favourite Hyung-Koo Lee is here with his usual skeleton of a cartoon character, this time a rabbit (above), but he's not the only talented artist on display. U-Ram Choe has created a disturbing carousel that gradually increases in speed to dangerous levels.

Myoung-Ho Lee places white backdrops behind trees to bring the sterile into the natural world and Xooang Choi creates a disturbing set of angel wings out of hands, like something out of Pan's Labyrinth

This was an excellent collection, Chinese artists had a similar exhibition nearby but it wasn't as good. Though Hua Qing's energetic drawings of the Zodiac's creatures did catch my eye.

That's it from me today. Tomorrow is to tackle the remaining chunk of Biennale with a trip to the Arsenale.

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