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Behind the Biennale: A Short History of the World’s Most Important Art Exhibition

What would the world be like without the Venice Biennale? This short doc answers to the question in a very pop manner through archival images, artworks and interviews.

2015 | 5 - 10 | Art | Documentary | Mixed Media | USA

What would the world be like without the Venice Biennale? Director Oscar Boyson asked this question to a group of artists, curators, critics and inhabitants of the city, to explain this event and the historical and cultural impact that it has had and continues to have today. So begins this excursion into the history of the exhibition, marked by sensational events that have indelibly marked art history.

In 1909 Marinetti dropped the Futurism manifesto from the bell tower of San Marco. In 1964 Pop Art arrived in Europe right at the Biennale, with Rauschenberg winning the Grand Prize for a foreign artist, an act that sanctioned the shift in the center of artistic research from the old to the new continent. Figures such as Yayoi Kusama, ModiglianiKlimtPollockMarina Abramovic and many others owe their initial explosion in the art world to this institution.

But there’s not only art: the Official History is mixed with the art one, from the construction of the gardens, that host the national pavilions since 1895 (originally built by Napoleon who, according to a Venetian, did no good to the city) to the violent protests of 1968, but also the fascist control of the Biennale during Mussolini’s dictatorship and Hitler’s visit, during which he overhauled the German pavilion to adapt its aesthetic to the regime one.

That’s because art is never disconnected from its historical context, rather it reflects, interprets or models it. In choosing a representative artist, in fact, every country decides to tell specifically convey something about itself. In the same way, artists can take a clear stand against their nation, as Ai Wei Wei did in 2013 when he represented Germany, not China.

Thus comes the conclusion of this doc. The Biennale emerges as a conversation with time and opportunity for each nation to recreate its identity or to give a new form and meaning to their past.

The short was produced by Artsy, the art portal dedicated created by programmer Carter Cleveland and curator Sebastian Cwilich that since 2011 has established itself as a central establishment in the (online) art world. Artsy’s mission is to make the art world accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Through a database of more than 250,000 images and partnership with galleries and museums around the world, reports from major international fairs and endless multimedia content, Artsy means to connect users with art.

This documentary, that launches a series of further shorts on the Biennale which will be released throughout the summer, is a great example of the communication strategy of the site. Immediate, dynamic, eye-catching, extremely ‘pop’ in his visual realization (very reminiscent of the John Baldessari doc commissioned by LACMA, in its use of archival footage, interviews, everyday objects, works of art and still images), Behind the Biennale in just 5 minutes manages to explain more than a century of history, making it accessible to everyone, even to those who are totally alien to the art world.

Flavia Ferrucci

Flavia Ferrucci

Flavia Ferrucci

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