The 59th Venice Biennale is the latest edition of a grand international exhibition of contemporary art, which takes place in Venice, Italy. With 213 artists from 58 countries and countless official and unofficial offsite venues, it can be a grueling experience for visitors to navigate. This year’s Biennale showcases an unprecedented focus on female artists, with 90% of the participants being women. The Golden Lion awards have been awarded to American artist Simone Leigh for her work in the Arsenale and Sonia Boyce’s UK pavilion.
In the public gardens, the Giardini, visitors can view Simone Leigh’s sculptures at the US pavilion that showcase black women whose traditions have been excluded from the archive or history. The outdoor forecourt features ‘Satellite,’ a 24-foot sculpture inspired by the Baga peoples of the Guinea coast.
Sonia Boyce’s colorful videos, which feature five black female musicians (Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth, Sofia Jernberg, Tanita Tikaram and Errollyn Wallen) who improvise, interact and play with their voices, are displayed at the Great Britain pavilion. In the French pavilion, Zineb Sedira’s immersive installation features film, sculpture, photography, and collage, punctuated with live tango performances in a 1960s style bar. The Nordic Pavilion has become the Sámi Pavilion, featuring the work of three indigenous artists, Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara, and Anders Sunna.
At the Ukrainian pavilion, visitors can view a wooden pavilion that was burned to strengthen the wood and a stack of sandbags used to protect statues. Ghana’s large-scale installations, created by three artists, feature the Black Star, which symbolizes the country and is linked with the national football team and the most important monument in the country.
Pavlo Makov’s 12-tier steel sculpture, The Fountain of Exhaustion, focuses on climate change and guides the flow of water, with a steady stream at the top and just a few drips at the bottom. Wallace Chan’s Totem, a deconstructed 10-meter titanium sculpture, invites viewers to walk through the multiple pieces installed on the floorspace of Fondaco Marcello, a historic piazza on the Grand Canal. German artist Anselm Kiefer’s work is on display at the Palazzo Ducale.
The 59th Venice Biennale features a variety of art forms and themes, including a focus on female artists and indigenous cultures. Several artists have chosen to address current socio-political issues such as climate change and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, bringing social commentary to the forefront of the exhibition. Visitors can expect to be stimulated by the range of works and their unique perspectives, as well as the impressive architecture of the pavilions and offsite venues.
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