The Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale

Sarah Coffey
Oct 12, 2009

Every two years, Venice hosts the Biennale, one of the world's largest and most well-known exhibitions of contemporary art. As I walked the halls of the show, I felt the strength of the current link between fine art and functional design. For highlights from the exhibition, and a slideshow of favorite pieces, click below...

Korean artist Haegue Yang's Condensation

The Biennale is split into two main venues: the Arsenale and the Giardini. I visited on a Monday, when the Giardini was closed, but the size of even half the show is enough to keep you busy looking for a whole day.

The Arsenale is a former Venetian shipyard, first established in Venice around the 12th or 13th century. The old gates, columns, and halls of the shipyard (built over many centuries) now house the exhibitions of the Biennale. It's an incredible setting for artwork, with large, echoing chambers that seem to go on for miles.

American artist Spencer Finch's Moonlight and Moondust

My hands-down favorite artwork in the show was Moonlight and Moondust by American artist Spencer Finch. Moonlight is an installation of colored filters in the windows of one of the halls. Green, blue, and yellow window panes create patterns of light that move across the floors as the sun shifts. Moondust, on the other hand, is a light sculpture of incandescent bulbs that hangs from the ceiling.

I stood in this room for a long time, looking and taking photographs. There were two men having a conversation under the light sculpture. When I left the gallery and returned an hour later, they were still there. It was the kind of room where you wanted to stay as long as possible.

Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto's room of broken mirrors

The majority of the photos shown in the slideshow are from Making Worlds, the Arsenale's main exhibition curated by Daniel Birnbaum. Almost all of the artists in the show were engaged in some type of direct dialogue with architecture and design.

Michelangelo Pistoletto's room of broken mirrors seems like a palace hall full of messy, shattered glass. Cildo Meireles' installation, a series of brightly colored rooms that bleed into one another through two-toned doorways, makes the viewer feel the powerful impact of color on our state of being.

For more information on the Biennale and its exhibits, click here.

Photos: Sarah Coffey

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