Brunswick Review Issue 12

Venice Biennale

Every two years, Venice holds one of the world's longest-running and most well-respected art exhibitions. Brunswick Arts' Ben Rawlingson-Plant provides a snapshot of the 2017 event

The opening days of the Venice Biennale, an international art event held in the beautiful lagoon city every other year, sees the art world descend upon “La Serenissima” (Venice’s nickname: “most serene”) for an array of openings, parties and glamorous events. A mixture of museum directors, collectors, art dealers and media gathers for the four-day “vernissage” period (named after the practice of varnishing paintings before the public viewing), after which the city returns to normal. Founded 120 years ago, the Venice Biennale has been canceled only three times, for two World Wars. It remains the world’s pre-eminent art event today, as countries compete for the much coveted Golden Lion Awards. In addition to the national pavilions in the competition, an international curator is appointed each edition to curate a show that tests the temperature of the current state of contemporary art. This curator has the mammoth space of the Arsenale, Venice’s magnificent former shipyard, at his or her disposal, among other historic venues. The 2017 event opened on May 23rd, and will run until late November.


Left is Olwen Fouéré, a theater artist, performing as a witch for Jesse Jones’s exhibition in the 2017 Biennale, which is titled Tremble Tremble. Jones, a Dublin-born artist, is representing Ireland at the Biennale. Her exhibition, which features a mixture of film and live performance, was created with themes of social justice in mind; Jones described the art as a “bewitching” of Ireland’s judicial system.


Multidisciplinary artist Zai Kuning is representing Singapore  at the Biennale with Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge. The work looks to tell a reimagined story of a largely forgotten people – the orang laut,  a Malay term that means “sea people” – and a largely forgotten leader, Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa, who ruled during the 7th century and is considered the first Malay king. A 55-foot long (17 meters) ship, suspended from the ceiling, is part of the exhibition. Kuning made the boat entirely from rattan, string and beeswax. One review described the boat “as if emerging from an aluminum sea, carrying within its hull ghosts of the past.”


Founded in 2011, the Faurschou Foundation houses a collection of contemporary art. At the Biennale, it is presenting a two-part exhibition exploring the work of Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), an American graphic artist and painter, whose 1993 work Catch (Urban Bourbon) is above. The Biennale exhibitions also examine Rauschenberg’s relationship with Andy Warhol – the two had lifelong conversations about the use of the graphic technique of screenprinting – and contain works made by Rauschenberg after he suffered a stroke.


The Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation, which lends works of art to institutions worldwide, and the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (“The Municipal Council Board of Venice”) are presenting their sixth, and final, exhibition at Palazzo Fortuny: “Intuition.” Featuring the work of more than 300 artists, including Jackson Pollock, Man Ray, Anish Kapoor and Marina Abramovic, the show explores how intuition and concepts related to it, such as dreaming and hypnosis, shape art across borders, cultures and generations. A collage of stills from Damien Jalet’s film, “The Ferryman,” left, is included.   

Ben Rawlingson-Plant is Managing Partner of Brunswick Arts, and is based in the firm’s New York office.

Brunswick Arts is a communications consultancy that promotes and manages the reputations and interests of arts, cultural and charitable organizations around the world. Since its founding 16 years ago, Brunswick Arts has been involved with the Venice Biennale, working with more than 10 separate country pavilions, while also representing exhibitions hosted alongside the main Biennale. For the 2017 event, Brunswick Arts’ clients included country pavilions for Singapore, Taiwan, Ireland and the UAE, and exhibitions featuring work by Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Marina Abramovic.

Photograph: Ros Kavanagh / Production Image: Jesse /1993 Collection Aros Art Museum, Denmark © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / Gilles Delmas and Damien Jalet

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