The Venice Biennale ends machismo in contemporary art

View of Ukrainian artist Pavlo Makov's project at the Venice Biennale, 78 bronze funnels saved from bombs. / EFE

The Navarran creator June Crespo exhibits three sculptures in the Ciudad de los Canales contest, in which more than 80% of the participants are women

DARIO MINOR Special delivery. Venice

Being a man, of white race and western culture no longer supposes a privilege to succeed in the world of contemporary art. At least it is not in its most important international exhibition, the Venice Biennale, which arrives a year late after the coronavirus pandemic: it opens its doors to the public next Saturday and can be enjoyed until November 27. In this 59th edition, the Biennial begins to forget about the fascination with the most dramatic proposals of recent years and the obsession with video to return to the origins: sculptures, paintings and objects of all kinds to transport the visitor to artistic conceptions up to now considered peripheral or far from the big circuits. Cecilia Alemani, curator of the Biennale this year, has made her intentions clear with her choice of the 213 artists of 58 different nationalities who exhibit her works in the central pavilion and in the Arsenal: there are 191 women and 22 men. 180 of the creators also come to Venice for the first time.

“More than 80% of the participants are women. I wanted to give a strong signal and reverse a trend. Until now, exactly the opposite was happening, but nobody had ever had the problem”, explains Alemani, who has managed to provide a certain narrative unity to the more than 1,400 works on display. Under the motto 'The milk of dreams', taken from a children's book by the writer Leonora Carrington, the curator proposes a reflection on the representation of bodies and their metamorphosis, the relationship between people and technology and the connection between The man and the earth. These ideas are present in the creation that welcomes visitors to the central pavilion of the Biennale: a hyper-realistic life-size elephant placed on a pedestal, the work of the German Katharina Fritsch, Golden Lion for the race together with the Chilean Cecilia Vicuña, author of the image that illustrates the poster for this edition of the Biennial.

Bronze funnels saved from the bombs

Among the artists chosen by Alemani for the central sample of the exhibition are June Crespo from Navarra and Teresa Solar from Madrid. Both are relatively young (40 and 36 years old) and are visiting Venice for the first time. "Being here is a privilege that marks a point of arrival due to the recognition of the work carried out so far, but also a starting point due to what it can influence my career," says Crespo, who lives in Bilbao and presents at the Biennial three sculptures from his series 'Helmets' made with industrial materials.

For them, she starts from the same torso of a mannequin to which she adds various elements, in such a way that very different perspectives are suggested to the viewer, such as the grotesque mouths in which the hip openings invite us to think. With this interplay between the human body, iron and cement, Crespo's creations fit into the reflection requested by the Biennial's curator and with which the Basque-Navarre artist feels identified. «The time has come for us to focus on these aspects without always having to insist on the gaze of men. We must question the established discourses that we have so far in the West », she says.

In addition to the central exhibition, the Biennial has the participation of 80 countries with their respective national exhibitions, a list that has been joined in this edition by Cameroon, Namibia, Nepal, Oman and Uganda. Among the pavilions with the most striking proposals, some of the usual 'giants' stand out, such as the United States and France, to which this year Denmark joins with its creepy hyper-realistic reflection on a dystopian future in which technology allows us to give life to a creature mythological as suggestive as the centaur.

Beyond offering the opportunity to take the pulse of the contemporary art situation, the Biennale is also an agora to see and be seen, a wonderful space among the delights of Venice that allows you to contemplate all kinds of scenes: from the couple that He warms up contemplating a work with erotic content and looks for a hidden corner to vent his intimate fury even to the waiter who, without any shame, refills the bottles of water in the bathroom sinks that he will later try to sell at the bar.

Ignasi Aballí. / EFE

Ignasi Aballí 'corrects' the Spanish pavilion

The Spanish pavilion at the Venice Biennale is crooked. This discovery, which arrives precisely in the year of its centenary, has been made by the Catalan creator Ignasi Aballí, responsible for the proposal that our country offers in the most important contemporary art contest, which opens its doors this Saturday. Starting from the deviation of about ten degrees that the building shows with respect to the neighboring pavilions, Aballí offers a rereading by 'correcting' the walls, which generates a contrast between the original walls and the new ones, which the Catalan artist distinguishes by giving them a small baseboard and paint them in a slightly different shade of white.

«When you are invited to participate in the Biennale, you may be tempted to bring as many of your own works to make yourself known, but I have chosen to 'waste' this opportunity by emptying the building. But it is only apparent, because it is a surrealist proposal and it is technically very complicated », says the Catalan artist while showing the blind spots left by the dialogue between the original walls and those that he has ordered to be erected. «We start from the complex that we Spaniards can have when comparing ourselves with other countries and that is reflected here when trying to correct that deviation to reveal a series of contradictions: the new and the old, the straight and the crooked, the full and the emptiness, the transitory and the permanent…” explains the curator of the exhibition, Bea Espejo.

In addition to the pavilion itself, which can disappoint those who do not stop to read the explanation of the work, Aballí invites you to leave the Biennale area to follow a tour of little-known places in Venice. At each of the six chosen points, the visitor will receive a book that will serve as a visual guide to enjoy the City of Canals in a different way and thus 'correct' the way in which we usually approach it.

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