Twenty Unmissable Pavilions at 58th Venice Biennale – Artlyst

58th Venice Biennale 2019

What goes around comes around and again it is time for the Venice Biennale. Now in its 58th edition and under the direction of Hayward Gallery head honcho, Ralph Rugoff, the event is bound to be a groundbreaking affair. Artlyst will be there to report on the best offerings from the international world of contemporary art.

The Main Exhibition

May You Live in Interesting Times curated by Ralph Rugoff
The exhibition will include 79 artists from all over the world. The Exhibition will focus on the work of artists who challenge existing habits of thought and open up our readings of objects and images, gestures and situations. Art of this kind grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory and incompatible notions and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.
Includes works by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Michael Armitage, Ed Atkins, Darren Bader, Ian Cheng, George Condo, Stan Douglas, Jimmie Durham, Shilpa Gupta, Anthea Hamilton, Ryoji Ikeda, Arthur Jafa, Lee Bul, Julie Mehretu, Hito Steyerl and Danh Vo

Venice Biennale
Giardini, Venice Biennale

The Pavilions

British Pavilion – Cathy Wilkes – 
The Northern Irish born Glasgow-based artist has built a considerable reputation for sculptural installations of profound and mysterious intensity, which often evoke interiors and places of loss. The artist experiments with all kinds of media and materials and collects treasures and ingredients. Her work recalls emergent visions of interiors and places of loss and meditates on the nature of love and the coexistence of life and death. Wilkes’ British Pavilion exhibition will be curated by Dr Zoé Whitley, Curator, Tate Modern.

Irish Pavilion: Eva Rothschild 
Employing a diverse range of materials and sculptural formats, Eva Rothschild will construct an immersive environment that allows the public to be both viewer and participant. Rothschild’s exhibition will create a socially sculptural space within the Irish Pavilion, allowing for contemplation of the material legacy of both present and past civilisations.

USA Pavilion: Martin Puryear
Martin Puryear’s abstract organic forms are rich with psychological and intellectual references that explore issues of ethnicity, culture, and history. His new sculptures incorporate a diverse range of materials, from bronze, cast iron, and mirror-polished stainless steel to a variety of woods, including red cedar, tulip poplar, maple, holly, Alaskan yellow cedar, walnut, and ebony. Puryear’s sculptures, typically made by hand with labour-intensive methods, often require months to complete. His techniques, developed over a forty-year career, combine practices adapted from many different traditions, including wood carving, joinery, and boat building, as well as recent digital technology.

Venice Biennale
British Pavilion, Giardini

French Pavilion – Laure Prouvost 


The cornerstone of Deep See Blue Surrounding You / Vois Ce Bleu Profond Te Fondre is a fictional film. It takes the form of an initiatory journey filmed over the course of a road trip on horseback through France—from the Parisian suburbs to the northern region, from the Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval to the Mediterranean Sea—and, finally, to Venice. A sculptural installation, taking as a metaphorical point the trajectory of the octopus goes beyond the film, transcending out of the realms of the Pavilion and beyond. It uses typical processes of the artist’s practice such as leftover objects from the film, resin, clay, glass, plants or water vapor, and features performances interacting with the architecture and the objects.

Ghana Pavilion – Ghana Freedom: El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, Felicia Abban, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
designed by David Adjaye OBE. Entitled “Ghana Freedom,” after the song composed by E.T. Mensah on the eve of the independence of the new nation in 1957, the pavilion examines the legacies and trajectories of that freedom by six artists, across three generations. Rooted both in Ghanaian culture and its diasporas, the pavilion exhibition will include large-scale installations by El Anatsui and Ibrahim Mahama; representation and portraiture by prominent photographer Felicia Abban and painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; and a three-channel film projection by John Akomfrah and a video sculpture by Selasi Awusi Sosu.

India Pavilion – Our Time for a Future Caring

Seven eminent modern and contemporary artists have been selected to represent India: Nandalal Bose, Atul Dodiya, GR Iranna, Rummana Hussain, Jitish Kallat, Shakuntala Kulkarni and Ashim Purkayastha.

The India Pavilion will form part of India’s ongoing programme celebrating ‘150 years of Gandhi’. Our Time for a Future Caring will feature works by an intergenerational group of artists spanning from the twentieth century to the present day. Assembling gestures, metaphors, memorials, exchanges and object symbols that together coalesce, coincide and morph together, the exhibition will feature artworks that either reflect directly on Gandhi and his place in history, focusing on specific moments and their resonances for contemporary audiences, or offer conceptual investigations into his philosophical ideas and broader notions of agency, action and freedom.

New Zealand Pavilion – Dane Mitchell 
Palazzina Canonica, Riva Sette Martiri

Highlighting that the history of progress is more like a history of oversights and obsolescence, Mitchell’s encyclopedic inventories range from extinct plant species to former capital cities, forgotten languages, discontinued software, discontinued publishers, destroyed religious buildings, and former national anthems (to name just a few). In sync with the transmission, Post hoc will also print the colossal inventories of bygone phenomena on rolls of paper inside the historic library of the Palazzina Canonica.

Post hoc – which translates from Latin as ‘after this’ – could hardly be more timely. The tree towers which artificially resemble nature, suggest we are living in a state of after nature, while the lists – which rely on the availability of recorded ‘facts’ – signal the contingent process of constructing knowledge in this post-truth moment. It’s no accident that the public sites framing Post hoc nod to questions of epistemology, philosophy, and religion, helping to contextualise Post hoc’s challenge to systems of knowledge and belief.

Finnish Pavilion – The Miracle Workers Collective: A Greater Miracle of Perception
Formed and informed by artists, filmmakers, writers, intellectuals, performers and activists, the Miracle Workers Collective present their inaugural project A Greater Miracle of Perception at the Finnish Pavilion.
Creating a space of encounters upon which to pause and reflect, the pavilion challenges the notion of national representation and belonging. Exploring the miracle as a poetic vehicle from which to expand perceptions and experiences, the exhibition is realised through cinematic collaborations by members of the collective, and a site-specific sculptural installation by Outi Pieski gesturing to the transnationality of the Sámi people across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

Venice Biennale

Russian Pavilion – LC. 15: 11-32
Lc. 15: 11-32 is a new exhibition conceived and created for the Russian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, featuring the work of Alexander Sokurov and Alexander Shishkin-Hokusai. Commissioned by Semyon Mikhailovsky and curated by Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of The State Hermitage Museum, the Pavilion is a collaboration with The Hermitage. The participating artists take the collection of the museum as a departure point for their works.

Dutch Pavilion – The Measurement of Presence
Iris Kensmil and Remy Jungerman
For this year’s Dutch Pavilion, the work of Amsterdam-based artists Remy Jungerman and Iris Kensmil will be brought together in a joint presentation by curator Benno Tempel (Director of the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague). For the exhibition, titled The Measurement of Presence, both artists will make new work in a transnational presentation that investigates traditions of the past, and brings them into contact with the present.

Iris Kensmil will create a site-specific mural installation, in which she connects the utopian thinking of modernism, and paints seven black female intellectuals and cultural figures whose work offers a typical perspective on modernity and the future.

Remy Jungerman combines references to the modernism of De Stijl with patterns from the Maroons of Suriname, and rituals from the Winti religion. For the Dutch Pavilion he will create a new installation in which he brings together the traditions of the greater Dutch world ancestors in order to connect the various cultures and to start a future-oriented and open conversation.

Madagascar – Joël Andrianomeariso: I have forgotten the night


Madagascar will take part in the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia with its own pavilion for the first time in its history. Joël Andrianomearisoa was chosen to represent his country alongside curators Rina Ralay Ranaivo and Emmanuel Daydé, due to the invention and maturity of his work, his international reputation as well as the unconditional support of his professional network. Joël Andrianomearisoa, born in 1977 in Antananarivo, Madagascar lives and works between Paris and Antananarivo.

He explores many disciplines, from fashion to design, video to photography, scenography to architecture, installations to visual arts. This is likely where he draws his polyphonic work from, invading every part of his viewers’ sensitive space. Throughout his career, his work has been shown in many prestigious international cultural institutions such as the Maxxi in Roma, the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the Smithsonian in Washington, the Centre Pompidou in Paris among many others. In 2016, he received the Arco Madrid.Audemars Piguet Prize.


Brazilian Pavilion – Swinguerra, a new project by Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca,
The show will consist of a two-channel video installation featuring the film commissioned for the Biennale and, in the smaller room, a selection of portraits of the participants of the new work. The pavilion will thus reflect, in two different mediums, the same artwork.

Singapore Pavilion – Song-Ming Ang
Song-Ming Ang’s presentation, Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme, explores the myriad of ways people relate to music, on a personal and societal level, and how music can affect a sense of agency. The multidisciplinary presentation comprises film, digital prints, sculptures and banners.

Pakistan Pavilion – Manora Field Notes
Artist Naiza Khan curated by Zahra Khan
Tanarte, Castello 2109/A and Spazio Tana, Castello 2110-2111

Pakistan is taking part in the Venice Art Biennale for the first time
The exhibition investigates the transformation of Manora Island, off the harbour of Karachi. A soundscape narrating a 1939 report of storms across British India and series of large-scale brass sculptures depicting the towns in the report. There will be a vintage-style telescope, similar to those used by tourists on Manora Beach, through which you can view footage shot on the island.

German Pavilion – Natascha Süder Happelmann
Natascha Süder Happelmann develops a multimedia artwork through a collaborative process, inviting artists from different disciplines to intervene. The resulting work joins architecture, sound, sculpture and installation to investigate the current economic, political and social conflicts. In particular, it addresses the concepts of containment, isolation and accumulation and their consequences. The project continues beyond the pavilion through a programme of publications, concerts, radio broadcasts and lectures, that discuss these themes in different contexts and spaces.

Italian Pavilion – Enrico David, Chiara Fumai, Liliana Moro: Neither nor: the Challenge to the Labyrinth
Three artists interpret The Challenge to the Labyrinth, a seminal essay written by Italo Calvino in 1962 . In this text the author proposed a cultural work open to all possible languages and that felt itself co-responsible in the construction of a world which, having lost its traditional points of reference, no longer asked to be simply represented. To visualise the intricate forms of contemporary reality, Calvino turned to the vivid metaphor of the labyrinth: an apparent maze of lines and tendencies that is in reality constructed on the basis of strict rules. Interpreting this line of thought in an artistic context, “Neither Nor” — whose Italian title, “Né altra Né questa”, already uses the rhetorical figure of the anastrophe to disorientate — gives agency to a project of ‘challenge to the labyrinth’ that takes Calvino’s lesson on board by staging an exhibition whose layout is not linear and cannot be reduced to a set of tidy and predictable trajectories. Many generous journeys and interpretations are offered to the public, whom the exhibition entrusts with the chance to take on an active role in determining the route they will take and thereby find themselves confronted with the result of their own choices, accepting doubt and uncertainty as inescapable parts of understanding.

Canadian Pavilion – Isuma (Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn, Paul Apak, Pauloosie Qulitalik)
Isuma‘s participation in Canadian exhibition at Venice Art Biennale marks the first presentation of Inuit art in the national pavilion. The artistic collective, whose name means “to think, or a state of thoughtfulness” in Inuktitut, is Canada’s first Inuit video-based production company, born in 1990 to preserve Inuit culture and language and spread Inuit stories to different audiences around the world.

Japanese Pavilion – Motoyuki Shitamichi+Taro Yasuno+Toshiaki Ishikura+Fuminori Nousaku: Cosmo-Eggs
The intervention of artist Motoyuki Shitamichi arises from the necessity to investigate compelling issues of humans’ relation with the surrounding environment. “Cosmo-Eggs” aims to be a space of reflection upon our ways of inhabiting the Earth and relate with the others living beings. Especially referring to Japan contemporary society marked by natural and manmade disasters, Shitamichi’s work invites to reconsider the coexistence of humans and nonhumans and the limits which a constant growing society could uncover.

Belgian Pavilion – Jos De Gruyter and Harald Thys: Mondo Cane
The exhibition presents itself as a local folkloric museum that displays the human figure. It contains some twenty dolls, most of them automated; a series of large drawings of pastoral scenes; and steel bars that fence off the pavilion’s lateral recesses. At the centre of the building there are artisans – such as a cobbler, stonemason and a spinner, who staying true to themselves ply their respective trades.

Israeli Pavilion – Aya Ben Ron: Field Hospital X
Multidisciplinary Israeli artist Aya Ben Ron presents “Field Hospital X” (FHX), an international and itinerating institution, founded by her and produced by Miki Gov, which has its first installment at the Venice Art Biennale 2019.
A sort of sanitary structure is re-created inside the Pavilion to investigate the role of art in dealing with abuses and injustices of contemporary society. In this protected environment, the artist projects “No Body”, a video work which tells of her personal experience of abuses with the aim to shed a light also on other silent voices and stories of suffered mistreatments.

Australian Pavilion – ASSEMBLY: Angelica Mesiti

The exhibition features a multi-screen installation titled “ASSEMBLY”, in which artist Angelica Mesiti experiments through various figures of polyphony, cacophony, dissonance and harmony. The artist explores the potentialities of the translation from a mean of expression to another, with a particular interest in the movement from verbal languages to non-verbal and musical ones.
Her project for the Pavilion of Australia derives from an Australian poem by writer David Malouf, then transposed into a sound score and played by a musical ensemble. In this way, Mesiti explores the transformative power of group communication through interpretation and non-verbal languages.

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