The 59th Venice Biennale opens its doors

APA / AFP / Vincenzo PINTO

Curator Cecilia Alemany in front of Simon Lee’s bronze statue “The Brick House” in the second largest venue of the Biennale, the former Arsenal.

New York-based curator Cecilia Alemani has invited 213 artists from 58 countries with more than 1,500 artworks to the exhibition Milk of Dreams. The title belongs to a children’s book by surrealist artist Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), in which she describes a magical world that is constantly reinventing itself through imagination.

In the entrance area of ​​the central pavilion, Katharina Fritsch’s life-size film “The Elephant” from 1987 welcomes visitors, whose blend of green and realistic shapes seems to set the stage for the gallery’s surreal journey. The Düsseldorf artist, who is internationally acclaimed for her sculptures, will receive the Golden Lion for the work of her life this year.

80 Qatari suites at Giardini and Arsenal

Among the biennial prizes to be awarded on Saturday is the Golden Lion for Best National Contribution. Queues were already forming in front of the French pavilion, which was overseen by two Hamburger Bahnhof managers in Berlin, Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, among others. French-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira uses reconstructed scenes in a mixture of documentaries and fiction to analyze questions of political upheaval and feminism.

At the British Pavilion, Sonia Boyce shows the power of female singing. The artist and professor of black art and design is an important actor in the fight for the recognition of women artists and the fight against racism. Equally powerful is the work of Simon Lee, who gave the United States Pavilion a thatched roof with a wooden core, whose large-scale sculptures confidently define the role and awakening of blacks.

Austria’s widening horizon

In the Austrian pavilion, Jacob Lena Nebel and Ashley Hans Scherle addressed the dystopian conditions of the present, strikingly reminiscent of the conditions of the 1970s, negotiated in the pavilion.

“We are not currently dreaming of a better world,” Minister of State for Culture Andrea Mayer (the Greens) said at Thursday’s press conference regarding the Biennale’s theme “Milk of Dreams”. Instead, it is now more important than in previous years to restore freedom of art and freedom of expression in parts of Europe. Mayer is delighted that the exhibition “Invitation of the Soft Machine and Its Angry Body Parts” by Nebel & Cheryl “broadens the viewer’s horizon”.

To be honest, it has always been my dream to organize this pavilion.

For Curator Carola Krause, Gallery Director, this open platform invites the public to explore the world of their desires. According to Krause, Knebl and Scheirl played “with a sense of humor with the human body” in their works.

Although the two use the pavilion’s architecture in two separate presentations, they also frequently refer to each other in their work.

Scheirl fills the left main room with an entry compartment and introduces visitors deeper and deeper into their being through flat backdrops placed one behind the other in the room. For example, there is a tank covered with fluffy fur that throws cereal into the room, a golden anus is decorated on the ceiling, and on the walls are large-scale paintings in which both artists can be found. Ironically, the works are geared toward voyeurism, posing and fetishism, which extends to a specially minted gold coin in Scheirl style.

Several brightly colored 3D-printed sculptures welcome visitors to the right-hand side of the Knebl-designed pavilion. Here, too, desire comes to the fore when people and things merge. But the renewed amalgamation of the fields of art and design is being negotiated here as well. In the two back rooms, which are also mirrored, is identical but mirrored wallpaper, which features 1970s interiors for the kitchens and living rooms. When asked how important it is to work together, the answer is short. “We are so glad we wouldn’t be here without each other.”

The Biennale in the Mirror of the Ukraine War

The Russian pavilion is empty after leaving this year’s technical team. The building is prominently located on the grounds of the Biennale and is guarded by the police at all times to prevent attacks in protest of the Russian attack on Ukraine. Culture workers protested the war in Ukraine in front of the Russian Pavilion on Friday.

Ukrainian actor Alexei Yudnikov gave a performance for a few minutes before police officers escorted him away from the Russian pavilion. Yudnikov first appeared in a long, dark coat and wore a mask reminiscent of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The work “Piazza Ucraina” is located in a very central location a few meters away. The works of Ukrainian artists, for example, unable to travel due to the war, can be seen around a tower made of sandbags.

Ukraine is also represented by its own pavilion. According to Ukrainian painter and sculptor Pavlo Mako, he created a “metaphor of fatigue.”


Pavlo Mako sees his work for Venice as a “metaphor for fatigue”.


In his work, the water flows through a pyramidal construction of passages, dividing more and more. Mako sees this as “a connection with democratic societies at this time because they are not ready to protect themselves”.

The German Pavilion reaches the depths of its history

In the German Pavilion, Berlin-based artist Maria Eichhorn revealed the structure of the building converted by the Nazis, and thus its history.

German Pavilion

German Pavilion

Because of Nazi architecture, the German Pavilion has repeatedly been an occasion for artistic exploration of the past.

In fact, it shouldn’t be there at all. Berlin artist Maria Eichhorn wanted the German Pavilion, controversial for decades due to Nazi architecture, to disappear from its prominent place in the Giardini with views of the lake and city at the time of the Venice Art Biennale. Instead of about 1,500 tons of fascist architecture, an empty place to think about dictatorship, resistance, and the role of art.

After objections and a lack of support from Italian antiquities protection and German skeptics about the radical thought experiment, the building is still standing. However, for Eichhorn, the idea of ​​the carriage is part of the artwork. “The temporary transfer of the German Pavilion is a work of art that also exists without its physical execution,” wrote curator Yilmaz Dzior, director of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.

Through her work Changing the Location of the Hulk, Eichhorn has now made his past visible in an impressively simple way. “We’re in two buildings,” Eichhorn describes the situation. The building originally erected as the Bavarian Pavilion was not demolished by the Nazis, but greatly expanded: a four-meter higher roof, the apse was added, and strong columns instead of the narrow columns of the great portico. Eichhorn facades revealed. Brick walkways now appear behind stucco, former exterior walls, old connections, and Nazi concrete over brick walls.


The 59th Biennale will be open until 27 November 2022. The 15th documentary will take place in Kassel from 18 June to 25 September – a strong year for art lovers.

Venice Biennale

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