Untitled
06 June, 2013
Untitled
I have been waiting for the opening of the 55th Venice Biennale with undisguised anticipation, not only because the co subjects of my Master’s thesis are included in the Georgian Pavilion which is hosted at the Arsenale, but also because I read Massimiliano Gioni’s Defense of the Biennales in Suzanne Hudson and Alexander Dumbadze’s book “Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present”. Granted Gioni, being the latest curator of the Venice Biennale was obviously biased in his view on biennales, yet I
found that I more or less agreed with his sentiment that biennales are the last institutions where art is allowed to be art without the pressure of the art market. Unlike a Fair, or a gallery, or as a mega collector Charles Saatchi proved by his Sensation show (first at the Royal Academy of Art in London and then Brooklyn museum in which he exhibited his own collection and afterwards sold it all for obscene amount on a Christie’s auction) even a reputable Museum, Biennale is not a market place, at least not an immediate sense.
Venice Biennale is the longest standing Biennale, with others piping up all over the world. Some, like Panama Biennale are unsanctioned and some like the Korean Biennale pop up only occasionally. The history, the art and social history of the Venice Biennale is rich with controversies and with world class artists who are approached and commissioned to represent their native or adoptive countries. For example Ai Wei Wei, a Chinese artist is represented by Germany, and for a good reason, China is not famous for its freedom of speech and has recently jailed Ai Wei Wei for speaking out against it. Speaking of native countries, this year, Germany and France decided to play around with idea of statehood (probably not the greatest history behind these two countries to be doing that) and switched pavilions. Although every year countries participating in the Biennale select the artists they want to represent them and sponsor the installations, the curators have the last say in how and what is presented at the Biennale, so the artists are more or less unrestricted in their work. In the case of the British Pavilion, the British Council asked one of the artist to take down a banner “Prince Harry Kills Me” by Jeremy Deller for the possibility that it will be misunderstood, but then The Guardian wrote all about it, so everyone knows anyway. The artist selections are not based on the market value of the artist or notoriety, but rather on the ideology and what they represent in their art and if the government or whoever is sponsoring the certain pavilion sees the representation clearly. At least that is the criteria the artists are supposed to be chosen by. Georgian Pavilion was commissioned by Marine Mizandari, First Deputy Minister of Culture of Georgia and curated by Joanna Warsza. The roster of artists comprising the Pavilion are Bouillon Group, Thea Djordjadze, Nikoloz Lutidze, Gela Patashuri with Ei Arakawa and Sergei Tcherepnin, Gio Sumbadze. The majority of the experience in the Georgian Pavilion based on conceptual art and performance, which continue to defy the market identity and value. The real value is the thought process, the ideology and the free expression with which the Georgian Pavilion is well equipped. I wish I could talk more about the individual artists more in depth, but I feel that it would be cheating as I haven’t yet made it to the Venice Biennale and seen the performances or the installations. I’ve applied for grants that would get me to the Venice Biennale, but so far, I am combing the internet to catch a glimpse of Bouillon group’s performances and for any critical reception of Sumbadze’s Kamikaze Loggia and the rest of the fantastically talented group of artists. 
And while a group exhibition is more or less how the Venice Biennale is always structured there are of course as in any field of humanities and arts a few outstanding artists whose individuality needs to be accounted for, but as I said in the beginning at the Venice Biennale this individuality is not supposed to be based on market value. Not so, says Brazilian artist Fabio di Ojuara who walks around the Venice Biennale, with a toilet seat around his neck that reads “Now Every Shit Can Be Art”. And while I understand that this is a reflection on the art market values, same values Piero Manzoni was acting out against in the 60s with his 90 cans of Artist’s Shit series, my first reaction was ‘Wait, is Jeff Koons at the Biennale too?’
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