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In Venice there’s more to contemporary art than the Biennale

by Ada Masoero

Sure, there's the Biennale. But there’s more going on in Venice right now than just the 56th International Art Exhibition, running through November 22.

A stop at the Cini Foundation on the San Giorgio Maggiore island is also a must for art lovers. Here “Crowd and Individual,” an installation by great octogenarian artist Magdalena Abakanowicz - a victim of all the upheavals suffered by her homeland in the 20th century - is on display.

We are not going to reveal any further detail about this magnificent artwork, strongly backed by Luca Massimo Barbero, director of the History of Art Institute at the Cini Foundation, because it must be viewed as a surprise in order to experience the maximum effect of all its strength.

An entirely different matter, endowed with a polished and severe transparency, is the beautiful exhibition “Finnish Glass in the Bischofberger collection,” also held on the San Giorgio Maggiore island, and which showcases a wealth of sparkling masterpieces by designers such as Aino and Alvar Aalto and Tapio Wirkkala.

The Palazzo Cini at San Vio, in Dorsoduro, on the other hand, opened its new and completely renovated exhibition spaces on the second floor, with a special exhibit of works by Ettore Spalletti, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero with the artist himself.

It is hard to imagine - except, probably, by letting oneself drift into the artworks - the extremely pure “sound” that Spalletti's works, set up as a single, large installation, acquire in these light-flooded spaces.

Just a few steps away, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents two exhibitions: the first, held in Peggy's rooms and curated by David Anfam, unfolds around “Mural,” the large painting that Jackson Pollock created in 1943 for the art dealer's New York home. After undergoing restoration, the artwork is displayed in Italy for the first time.

“It is a damn exciting assignment,” Jackson wrote to his older brother Charles (1902-1988), who is the main focus of the second exhibit, curated by Philip Rylands for the Peggy Guggenheim Collection's exhibition spaces.

It is a real discovery: after his debut - akin to his more famous brother's experimentation, albeit less powerful - and after his stay in Rome, where he associated with Dorazio, Turcato, Arnaldo and Giò Pomodoro, and other Italian artists, Charles Pollock veered toward Color Field painting, achieving excellent results.

After a short walk to the Giudecca, we reach the Magazzini del Sale, where the Vedova Foundation presents an enthralling juxtaposition, curated by Germano Celant, of works by Emilio Vedova and Alexander Calder. Set up by Italo Rota, the exhibit recalls the two artists' participation in the “Terre des Hommes” Expo of 1967 in Montreal.

A few more steps away, the Pinault Collection at Punta della Dogana hosts the collective exhibition “Slip of the Tongue,” curated by Danh Vo (while Palazzo Grassi presents Martial Raysse's solo show curated by Caroline Bourgeois with the artist himself).

Twentieth-century art lovers will find at Museo Correr the raw and ruthless moods conveyed by “New Objectivity,” in a rigorous and harsh exhibition on Weimar Republic Germany (1919-1933) organized in collaboration with the Los Angeles LACMA and curated by Stephanie Barron with Gabriella Belli, director of the Venice Museums.

Palazzo Ducale, thanks to a partnership with the Musée d'Orsay and the Orangerie, puts on display the amazing adventure of Henri Rousseau - known as Le Douanier (the customs officer) - between the 19th and the 20th century, with an exhibit (curated by Gabriella Belli and Guy Cogeval) that, among several masterpieces, also showcases The War and The Snake Charmer: two works that alone would be worth the visit.