Venice

Venice ready for Biennale arts bonanza

'Encyclopedic Palace' mixes renown with amateur

Venice ready for Biennale arts bonanza

(By Kate Carlisle) Venice, May 29 - The Venice Biennale, considered among the most important contemporary art festivals in the world, has pulled a page from history and chosen the title The Encyclopedic Palace for its central exhibition, remembering a patented but unfinished project from half a century ago. Curated by 39-year-old Massimiliano Gioni, associate director and director of exhibitions at the New Museum in New York, the title refers to the self-taught Italian-American artist Marino Auriti and the 1955 design he filed with the US Patent office called the 'Palazzo Enciclopedico'. Auriti's 700-meter-tall museum was projected to cover 16 city blocks in Washington DC and was conceived of to bring together the world's greatest discoveries under one roof. Auriti's ambitions plan never came to fruition, but the idea remains intriguing enough to inspire the theme for one of the world's best-known biannual art events. A three-day preview beginning on Wednesday gives early select visitors a taste of what's to come when the show opens to the public on Saturday. Some 500,000 people are expected to flock to the lagoon city to see the Biennale before it draws to a close November 24. The enormous exhibition is located in two sites - one in the shaded gardens, or Giardini, on the city's east side and the other in the nearby Arsenale complex. The 55th Biennale will host 158 artists from 38 countries, almost double compared to the two previous Biennales. "Perhaps it is because I am great admirer of (Italian author of Name of the Rose) Umberto Eco, but I have always thought that knowledge is a sort of romantic adventure....the world seems made as inspiration for a novel," Gioni told ANSA explaining the Encyclopedia theme. Mixing themes and eras, Gioni made a decisive choice to select artists of all levels, placing the well-known next to the unfamiliar. Works on display are just as varied with cultish and obscure objects taking stage next to sophisticated drawings and paintings. A deck of tarot cards by the British occultist and artist Aleister Crowley, an Icelandic boat, a Vietnamese church will all be on display for visitors to grapple with how they fit into the curator's concept. "It is an exhibition that looks towards tomorrow - where together with giants of art are unknown or 'amateurs'. I do not want to say that I ask who the artist is today, but I wanted to go beyond the accepted criteria," Gioni said. Apart from the major undertaking of organizing the event, Gioni also actively sought, and found, 1.5 million euros in funds to supplement the 1.8 million-euro budget. Another new feature of this edition of the Biennale is the presence of the Vatican. For the first time, the Holy See has stitched together an exhibition to be presented at its very own pavilion. Three contemporary artists were commissioned by the sovereign Holy See and given complete artistic liberty to create interpretations of the first 11 chapters of Genesis. The Venice Biennale originated in 1895 as an international art exhibition and as an autonomous institution arranges the music, film and theater festivals.

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