Venice Biennale 2017: Viva Arte Viva

13 May-26 Nov. Under the title Viva Arte Viva, the 2017 edition of the prestigious Venice Biennale is curated by Christine Macel. This year's theme is described as "an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist", according to Macel who has been chief curator at the Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou in Paris since 2000.

Cristine Macel curates the 2017 Venice Biennale
Christine Macel curates the 2017 Venice Biennale

The Biennale features 120 artists from 51 countries; 103 of these artists are participating for the first time. The exhibition will also include 85 national pavilions, of which four countries are represented for the first time: Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan.

The German Pavilion won the 2017 Golden Lion for Best National Participation thanks to Anne Imhof’s Faust, a “powerful and disturbing installation that poses urgent questions about our time”, according to the Biennale jury. Her installation features black-clad performers squirming and crawling under a glass floor, as if imprisoned or part of some hideous human experiment.

Anne Imhof's Faust at the German Pavilion
Anne Imhof's Faust at the German Pavilion

One of the main talking points in this year’s Biennale is Support by Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn who highlights Venice’s vulnerability amid climate change and rising sea levels. The installation comprises a pair of monumental hands surging out of the canal waters to seemingly brace the Ca’Sagredo hotel, a stark visual reminder of the dangers of global warming.

Hands by Lorenzo Quinn

                                                                                                             Support by Lorenzo Quinn

America’s pavilion, by leading international artist Mark Bradford, is also causing quite a stir. Black, gay and liberal, Bradford asks how he can represent the US when he no longer feels represented by his own government. The Los Angeles-based artist has created a Palladian-style pavilion – with a nod to the White House – and turned its rotunda into a ruin, while in another room visitors have to squeeze around a giant hanging papier-mâché sculpture which dominates the space.

US Pavilion by Mark Bradford
US Pavilion by Mark Bradford

The UK, too, keeps things on a grand scale. Phyllida Barlow, known for her colossal sculptural projects, has crammed the interior of the British pavilion with her Folly installation, comprising enormous plaster orbs, lumpy and colourful, attached to the tops of poles.

Phyllida Barlow represents the UK
Phyllida Barlow represents the UK

Ireland is represented by Dublin-based artist Jesse Jones who creates a fictional lost past when women held power, Canada is represented by Geoffrey Farmer known for his multimedia works comprising elements of sculpture, collage, video, film and performance, while representing Australia is Tracey Moffatt who uses primarily photography and video.

Jesse Jones represents Ireland
Jesse Jones represents Ireland with Tremble Tremble

Italy is represented by three artists, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Roberto Cuoghi and Adelita Husni-Bey, whose "works and languages are global but intimately linked to the culture of our country", according to the curator of the Italian pavilion, Cecilia Alemani.

Cecilia Alemani curates the Italian pavilion
Cecilia Alemani curates the Italian pavilion

This showcase of contemporary international art is held every two years and is now 122 years old. The 57th Venice Biennale is held at the historic Giardini and Arsenale as well as at various venues throughout the city until 26 November. 

For full details, in English, see website.