58th Venice Biennale

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

58th Venice Biennale
GenreArt exhibition
BeginsMay 11, 2019
EndsNovember 24, 2019
Previous event57th Venice Biennale (2017)

The 58th Venice Biennale is an international contemporary art exhibition held between May and November 2019. The Venice Biennale takes place biennially in Venice, Italy. Artistic director Ralph Rugoff curated its central exhibition, "May You Live in Interesting Times", and 90 countries contributed national pavilions.


The Venice Biennale is an international art biennial exhibition held in Venice, Italy. Often described as "the Olympics of the art world", participation in the Biennale is a prestigious event for contemporary artists. The festival has become a constellation of shows: a central exhibition curated by that year's artistic director, national pavilions hosted by individual nations, and independent exhibitions throughout Venice. The Biennale parent organization also hosts regular festivals in other arts: architecture, dance, film, music, and theater.[1]

Outside of the central, international exhibition, individual nations produce their own shows, known as pavilions, as their national representation. Nations that own their pavilion buildings, such as the 30 housed on the Giardini, are responsible for their own upkeep and construction costs as well.[1] Nations without dedicated buildings create pavilions in the Venice Arsenale and palazzos throughout the city.[2]

The 58th Biennale is open between May 11 and November 24, 2019, immediately preceded by three press preview days.[3]

Central exhibition[edit]

Ralph Rugoff, a former journalist and now director of the London Hayward Gallery, served as the 58th Biennale's artistic director. His main exhibition's theme is "May You Live in Interesting Times", which refers to an apocryphal curse attributed to ancient China but likely of Western origin. The theme, which Rugoff considered interesting for its ambiguity, intends to reflect how misreadings and fake news have lasting impact on reality. He suggested that art can guide where it cannot directly affect the rise of authoritarian governments or migrant crisis.[4] While recent biennials have addressed social issues, Rugoff wanted his exhibition to focus on art's ability to provide alternate realities and question habits of thought. Rugoff had previously organized a talk series on the subject of "alternative facts" at the 2017 London Frieze art fair.[5]

The artistic director selected 79 artists and groups for the central exhibition.[1] Rugoff continued to work at the Hayward Gallery while he prepared the show over 18 months with a 13 million budget.[6]

Figurative painting and kinetic sculpture are prominent in the exhibition. A large George Condo canvas opens the Arsenale amid other figurative paintings of real and imaginary people by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nicole Eisenman, and Henry Taylor. Avery Singer's computer-airbrushed wood panels of computer-generated imagery were particularly compelling. One room of the central pavilion was cacophonous, with a slamming security gate by Shilpa Gupta and a cow on a circular railroad by Nabuqi. Multiple holograms are in the show.[2]

National pavilions[edit]

The 90 national pavilions of the 58th Biennale exhibition was a new record for national participation, exceeding the 86 from 2017. Each country selects artists to show at their pavilion, ostensibly with an eye to the Biennale's theme.[1]

Highlight pavilions from the show included Lithuania,[7][8][9][10][11] Ghana,[7][12][13][14][8][15][9][10][16] France,[7][12][8][10][16] the United States,[12][13][8][10] the Philippines,[12][13][14] India,[12][13][14] Brazil,[12][8][10][16] Poland,[12][10][17] and Italy.[15][9][10]

The American and British pavilions were unusually inconspicuous in presenting the minimalist works of Martin Puryear and Cathy Wilkes. Belgium and Russia both hosted elaborate kinetic sculptures.[2]

First-time presenters at the Biennale included Ghana, Madagascar, Malaysia, and Pakistan.[18] Algeria had planned its first pavilion but canceled its funding after the country's president resigned. The selected artists fundraised and presented the pavilion unofficially.[19]

Special appearance[edit]

On September 10, 2019, Hillary Clinton visited the Kenneth Goldsmith work “Hillary: The Hillary Clinton Emails,” a work on display in a balcony jutting out over a supermarket at the Despar Teatro Italia. During her appearance, she said that the attention given to her emails was one of the “strangest” and most “absurd” events in U.S. political history, adding, “Anyone can go in and look at them. There is nothing there. There is nothing that should have been so controversial.”[20]

Other exhibitions and events[edit]

Other shows in Venice that coincided with the Biennale included designer Virgil Abloh's metal furniture at Carpenters Workshop Gallery.[2]


An international jury presented the three main prizes following the Biennale's opening ceremonies:[1]

  • Golden Lion for best national participation: Lithuanian pavilion
  • Golden Lion for best artist of the central exhibition: Arthur Jafa
  • Silver Lion for the most promising young artist of the exhibition: Haris Epaminonda[21]

The jury additionally had the option to present special mentions for a national pavilion and two artists in the central exhibition.[1]

The 58th Biennale's Golden Lion for lifetime achievement went to Jimmie Durham. This nominee was proposed by the artistic director (Rugoff) and confirmed by the Biennale's board prior to the opening.[1]


Stylistic themes across the 58th Biennale included figurative painting, immersive video installation—including a virtual reality work by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster—and kinetic sculpture. There were also several art duos in exhibition.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Russeth, Andrew (April 17, 2019). "The Venice Biennale: Everything You Could Ever Want to Know". ARTnews. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Herriman, Kat (May 16, 2019). "What to See at the Venice Biennale". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on June 2, 2019.
  3. ^ Douglas, Sarah (December 15, 2017). "Ralph Rugoff Will Be the Curator of 58th Venice Biennale in 2019". ARTnews. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  4. ^ Pes, Javier (July 16, 2018). "'We Can All Be in Different Worlds': Ralph Rugoff's Venice Biennale Will Respond to the Rise of Fake News". Artnet News. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  5. ^ McGivern, Hannah (July 16, 2017). "'Pleasure and critical thinking': Ralph Rugoff unveils curatorial direction of 2019 Venice Biennale". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Morris, Jane (May 1, 2019). "Why is the Venice Biennale still so important?". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Farago, Jason (May 13, 2019). "The Don't-Miss Shows and Pavilions at the Venice Biennale". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  8. ^ a b c d e Perlson, Hili (May 10, 2019). "The 5 Most Talked-About Pavilions at the 58th Venice Biennale". Galerie. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Delaqua, Victor (May 17, 2019). "7 Must-See Pavilions at the 2019 Venice Biennale". ArchDaily. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Marchese, Kieron (May 16, 2019). "the venice art biennales 15 best national pavilions". Designboom. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  11. ^ Volk, Gregory (May 25, 2019). "Four Spots in the Venice Biennale to Stop You in Your Tracks". Hyperallergic. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Lesser, Casey (May 10, 2019). "The Venice Biennale's 10 Best Pavilions". Artsy. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  13. ^ a b c d Wullschläger, Jackie (May 10, 2019). "The top five national pavilions at the Venice Biennale". Financial Times. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c Cole, Alison; Michalska, Julia; McGivern, Hannah; Da Silva, José; Harris, Gareth (May 10, 2019). "Venice Biennale 2019: the must-see pavilions in the Arsenale". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  15. ^ a b Moffitt, Evan (May 10, 2019). "The Art of Getting It Wrong – 58th Venice Biennale: The Best of the Arsenale Pavilions". Frieze. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  16. ^ a b c Webster, George (May 22, 2019). "Venice Biennale 2019: Best of the national pavilions". CNN Style. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  17. ^ Taylor, Kate (May 20, 2019). "Venice Biennale's May You Live in Interesting Times is a labyrinth of art with an elusive point". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  18. ^ O'Farrell, Seth (May 3, 2019). "Pakistan, Madagascar and the other first-timers at the Venice Biennale". Financial Times. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  19. ^ Rea, Naomi (May 10, 2019). "When Algeria Abruptly Cancelled its Venice Biennale Debut, Five Young Artists Decided Their Show Must Go On". Artnet News. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  20. ^ "Hillary Clinton reads her emails at Venice art show". Star-Advertiser. Honolulu. September 12, 2019. Retrieved September 13, 2019 – via New York Times.
  21. ^ "Arthur Jafa, Lithuania Win Top Prizes at Venice Biennale". ARTnews. May 11, 2019. Retrieved May 11, 2019.

External links[edit]