Biennale: Venice celebrates freedom of art | Arts | DW | 15.05.2017
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Biennale: Venice celebrates freedom of art

The famous international art exhibition in Venice is underway. While Germany has won the Golden Lion with an unsettling work, here's a tour of some of the Biennale's highlights.

Venice is filled with tourists as usual. As always, the overloaded vaporetti move through the canals, past magnificent palaces and piazzas.

These days however, a particular type of visitor is adding to the action. The Venice Biennale is the second major stop of the art season, after the first part of the documenta's opening in Athens. A further highlight will come in Kassel, for the second part of the documenta, followed by the Skulptur Projekte Münster, and the Biennales in Istanbul and Lyon this fall. Collectors with money to spend will also head to the Art Basel show along the way.

Venice Biennale work by Rina Baerjee, India (DW/S. Dege)

Enigmatic works: "Out Of Hollowness" by Rina Banerjee in the International Pavilion

This year's Venice Biennale, directed by French curator Christine Macel, features 86 national pavilions and 120 artists; 103 among them are taking part in the Italian art show for the first time. 

Disturbing art at the award-winning German Pavilion

The German Pavilion offers a strong impression with the work of Anne Imhof, the country's rising star. Her work "Faust" is a live performance combining people, animals and drawings. Imhof set up a glass and steel structure on which visitors stroll while actors move around enigmatically underneath their feet. A donkey and two Dobermans appear. An ethereal soundtrack keeps getting louder, reaching deafening levels. A topless woman moves around like a tiger caught in a cage. The visitors are startled; several people whisper to each other. No one laughs. The enigmatic physicality of the work causes consternation.

Venice Biennale: Work by Anne Imhof (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Merola)

The German Pavilion was awarded the Golden Lion

Susanne Pfeffer, curator of the German Pavilion and Imhof's supporter, must be satisfied. The length of the queue to see the performance was a good omen: Germany won the Golden Lion, the Biennale award for the best national pavilion.

The only country playing in the same league is perhaps the US, featuring the Los Angeles painter Mark Bradford, with his combination of monochrome and color-filled paintings and a phallic sculpture. The tower of the historic pavilion has been painted in gold.

The multimedia installation in the Russian pavilion showcases refined light and acoustic effects, filling the space with outlandish creatures offering references to the history of art, such as Max Ernst and Picasso. And then there's also the young photographer Sasha Pirogova, working with tightly choreographed video sequences.

Projections in the Russian Pavilion Venice Biennale (DW/S. Dege)

Projections in the Russian Pavilion

Celebrating the works of Geta Bratescu

Things are quiet just a stone's throw away: unlike in the country itself, no civil war is threatening the Venezuelan pavilion.  The art critic Juan Alberto Calzadilla Álvarez offers here his views on "freedom of art" through a work combining photography, film and drawings.

A solo exhibition of the great Romanian artist Geta Bratescu, now aged 91, fills her homeland's pavilion. It provides insight into the studio of the artist, painter, sculptor, photographer and tapestry maker. This pavilion alone makes the trip to Venice worthwhile.

Art can be like a labyrinth, playing with the perceptions of its viewers. This is well-demonstrated by the young Polish artist Alicja Kwade and her installation "WeltenLinie," made of mirrors and partition walls. Kawde's art reflects real life: there are many ways to the Venice Biennale, and some realizations can only be reached through trial and error. 

The 57th Venice Biennale is held until November 26, 2017. 

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