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58th Venice Biennale: Arsenale

By Melanie Damani, Hottinger Art

The disappearance of clouds, 2019, Thomas Saraceno (b. 1973) at the Arsenal.

On the second day of VIP pre-opening at the Venice Biennial, queues are still long to enter the main venues: Giardini and Arsenale, as well as popular pavillions – including French and British – and any other exhibitions in the town centre. The Georg Baselitz exhibition at the Galleria dell’ Accademia has been especially popular. Is it worth the wait? There is evident debate this year around the quality of works presented and the buzz created around them.


Traditionally, the Arsenale represents an important space displaying artists in the form of a group show. It is also the home of 22 nations and their pavillions, including China, Italy and Chile. The Arsenale was the largest production centre in Venice during the pre-industrial era. It was a huge complex of construction sites where the Serenissima fleets were built and, therefore, a symbol of the economic, political and military power of the city. Since 1980, the Arsenale has been an exhibition site for the Biennale.

George Condo (b. 1951) entrance work at the Arsenale.

Many pavillions at the Arsenale have an interesting exhibitions this year. However the shared space also presented some great artists, which set the tone immediately by exhibiting a giant George Cando (pictured above). Interestingly, some artists have works exhibited both at the Giardini and the Arsenale. These same artists are represented by important galleries such as David Zwirner. Coincidence? Maybe not.

Carole Bove

Nike III, 2019, Carole Bove (1971) Switzerland.

Carole Bove weas born in 1971 in Geneva, although her parents were from the United States. She was raised in Berkeley, CA, and graduated from New York University in 2000. Her works are made of a wide range of materials, including steel, concrete, books, feathers, seashells and foam, among many others. Bove’s diverse practice encompasses sculpture, installation, and drawing. Her oeuvre plays with questions of materiality, re-presenting and updating historical strategies of display. She is best known for her large-scale sculptures such as the one shown above. Bove has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Common Guild, Glasgow, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, the Kunsthalle, Zürich, and others. Bove represented Switzerland at the 57th Venice Biennale. She also participated in other important group exhibitions including Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany (2012), the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), and the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2008). Bove’s works are included in several important collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Colección Jumex, Mexico City, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and more.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

I dey fed like, 2019, Njideka Akunyili Crosby (1983) Nigeria.

Nijdeka Akunyili Crosby was born 1983 in Nigeria, where she also grew up until her mother won the the US green card lottery, enabling her to study art and biology at the Swarthmore College in Philadelphia as a Mellon Mays undergraduate fellow. After graduating in 2004, she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She later attended the Yale University School of Art, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts. She is a visual artist working in Los Angeles, CA. According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, by which she was awarded a prestigious prize in 2014, Akunyili Crosby’s art “negotiates the cultural terrain between her adopted home in America and her native Nigeria, creating collage and photo transfer-based paintings that expose the challenges of occupying these two worlds”. ln 2016, Akunyili Crosby was named Financial Times Woman of the Year. In 2017, she was awarded the prestigious Genius Grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. While Akunyili Crosby is not yet part of a lot of important museal collections, her works has already reached the auction market a while ago. In March 2012, Akunyili Crosby‘s work The Beautyful Ones was sold for $3,075,774 at Christie’s London. Akunyili Crosby is also exhibited at the Victoria Miro gallery.

Thomas Saraceno

The disappearance of clouds, 2019, Thomas Saraceno (b. 1973) Argentina.

Thomas Saraceno was born in Argentina in 1973. He currently works and lives in Berlin, Germany. He is best known for his large-scale, interactive installations and floating sculptures, and for his interdisciplinary approach to art, as pictured above. His work explores new, sustainable ways of sensing and inhabiting the environment. Saraceno launched Aerocene in 2015, which is an open-source community project for artistic and scientific exploration of environmental issues. Saraceno studied architecture at the National University of Buenos Aires. He made the move into the world of art by studying art and architecture as a postgraduate at Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de la Nación Ernesto de la Carcova. In 2003-2004, Saraceno participated in the course “Progettazione e Produzione delle Arti Visive”, held by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Olafur Eliasson at Venice University. In 2009, he attended the International Space Studies Program at NASA Center, Ames. Saraceno exhibited work at the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), when he won the Calder Prize. In 2012, he was the first resident artist at the Center for Art, Science and Technology at the MIT, Massachusetts. Besides MIT, Saraceno regularly works with other renowned scientific institutions around the world. His work has been widely exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions. His work is part of collections at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, SFMoMA, San Francisco and the Staatliche Museum zu Berlin.

Top 5 exhibitions


Fondazione Berengo Art Space, Campiello Della Pescheria, 30141 Venice

May 9 – November 24, 2019


Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia, Campo della Carita, 1050, 30123 Venice

May 8 – September 8, 2019

The Spark Is You: Parasol Unit in Venice

Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello di Venezia, Sestiere di S. Marco, 2810, 30124 Venice

May 9 – November 23, 2019

Adrian Ghenie. The Battle between Carnival and Feast

Palazzo Cini, Campo San Vio, Dorsoduro 864, 30123 Venice

April 19 – November 18, 2019

Jannis Kounellis

Fondazione Prada, Calle Corner, 2215, 30135 Venice

May 11–November 24, 2019

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