A few days ago the art biennial of Venice opened its doors. Next to the offical program, with a giant number of exhibitions in the country-pavilions in the Giardini and in the Arsenale, there are also the so-called ‘collateral events’ in different locations spread all over the city. We wandered around and bumped into several surprising art installations that made a lasting impression.
1) Together, Jaume Plensa
The 400-year-old basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore on one of the small islands of Venice, is a treat in itself, but these days it’s worth the boat trip even more. That’s thanks to the installation called Together by the Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa: a giant head made out of a metal gauze, standing in the middle of the central church aisle, which comes across a s monumental yet transparent. The head communicates with the historic, cool space and the spiritual silent atmosphere of the basilica, and even more so with the second piece of Plensa’s installation: a metal hand, suspended beneath the cupola in the foreground of the altar, that looks like it’s blessing the head. This piece is called Mist and is formed by characters of eight languages.
Jaume Plensa, Together (2014) and Mist (2014), Installation view from Together, San Giorgio Maggiore (2015). Photo: Jonty Wilde. Boven dit artikel: Jaume Plensa, Mist, 2014, Stainless steel, 525 x 531 x 425 cm. Photo: Jonty Wilde.
2) You Were On My Mind, Thomas Lerooy
Glasstress Gotika is the joint exhibition of the Venetian glass studio Berengo and The State Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg, set up for the occasion and the duration of the biennial in the Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti (close to the Ponte dell’ Academia) and the Fondazione Berengo (on Murano island). On display are several historical (mostly medieval) objects in glass taken from the collection of the Hermitage Museum, that have hardly been exposed to the public before, and also a large number of contemporary artworks in glass, made by internationally renowned artists who collaborated for the occasion with Murano’s glassblowing masters. One of the over 50 participating artists is the Belgian Thomas Lerooy, whose impressive and intriguing sculptures are by the way on display in the Petit Palais in Paris until July 5th. He is the first contemporary artist ever to be invited to show his classically inspired yet highly personal work there, in the context of the permanent collection of the Petit Palais.
Thomas Lerooy, You Were On My Mind, 2014, bronze, silver patina, glass, Ed #5, Galerie Rodolphe Jansen, Brussels
3) Wolves Coming, Lio Ruo Wang
One of the smallest and one the biggest countries worldwide – namely San Marino and China – decided to work together at the biennial and set up a Friendship project. The curator selected 11 artists – 5 from San Marino and 6 from China – and had their work installed in several locations in the city. One of those is Telecom Italia’s Future Centre, in the former convent of San Salvador in the centre of Venice, where you can gaze at the impressive installation by the Chinese artist Lio Ruo Wang. It shows a pack of wolves (iron sculptures) with their threatening bloody jaws spread open, running in the direction of a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà. With this piece, the artist wants to criticise the destruction of art that goes on in several countries and also persecutions in the name of faith.
4) Rinus Van de Velde
In this edition of the biennial, the Belgian pavilion in the official circuit is managed by the French speaking community – the Walloon and the Flemish communities take turns every year as the Belgian delegation. Still Flanders is also in Venice now, presenting the ‘collateral event’ The Revenge of the Common Place. This small exhibition in the Palazzo Nani Mocenigo invites the visitor to reflect on the role and the definition of originals and copies in the art world, referring to Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box. There are (a mere) three works on display, by Song Dong, Francis Alÿs and also by the young and lately pretty hot painter Rinus Van de Velde. His beautiful piece in charcoal on canvas shows the artist copying Warhol’s Brillo boxes, but at the same time you see his form watching from the background, smoking a cigarette.
Rinus Van de Velde, 2014, charcoal on canvas, 150 cm x 220 cm, Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp
___ Text: Hadewijch Ceulemans