Less than a month to go until the Opening of the 57th Biennale.  Starting on the 13th May -26th November this year it is entitled VIVA ARTE VIVA. 

It is not only apparent to see in the large shipments arriving by boat, but even more to hear, in the conversations. Understandably it is a topic of endless discussions, and what is interesting and something I have always liked about it is the fact that it is not limited only to artists. Before, during and long after the event it is discussed amongst people of all ages, genders, cultures and vocations. It is an extremely diverse event which offers so much and in such a way that it can be enjoyed by those coming for fun as well as artists on quests for inspiration. This year there will be 120 artists from 51 countries; 103 of these are participating for the first time,

Four countries will also be participating for the first time: Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan (for the first time with its own national pavilion). This just goes to show the positive impact the event as an institution is having on the creative minds of people from all over the world. Giving people a platform to show and see new ideas.

Some say its sheer size can be intimidating but our advice would be to relax and realize you will never see it all. It is also extremely important to be aware that the Biennale is not limited only to the Arsenale, some of most amazing exhibitions are littered throughout the city which brings a whole new dimension to the beauty of rambling through Venice. Whereas before you could have been sure to have stumbled across an old ship yard, or 16th-century fresco sooner or later, now we really cannot predict what you may see or from what part of the world it may hail.

Whilst I will endeavor to keep an ongoing account of those exhibitions worth seeing, from amongst the ones I personally visit or have been recommended, everyone has their own taste so it is always far better for you to try and test for yourself.

I say this also because I have found that often the exhibitions that have left me thinking the most are the ones that I least enjoyed, so no time is wasted really.

One thing worth remembering during this period is the evening. After a day spent devoted loyally to art and enriching your cultural boundaries, we often forget how exhausting it can be, especially when you are often in such big crowds. This is when the pleasure of retiring to your very own Truly Venice Apartment really comes into its own. It can sometimes be difficult to exert more effort at this point to uncover the legendary Venetian cuisine. For this reason, we would recommend during this period more than ever to take advantage of our private dinner service, Rather than sacrificing quality in the name of comfort, we will create a unique menu using fresh Venetian ingredients, in the ease of your Venice Home.

In the meantime…

Damien Hirst is undoubtedly the talk of the town at the moment, ‘Treasures from the wreck of the Unbelievable’.  Surprisingly, however, I think the arrival of his colossal exhibition was more widely publicized in London than in Venice. But this isn’t saying much because it was a closely guarded secret right up until the opening, with only a few breadcrumbs offered by the artist to tease long awaiting audiences.

The first of many unusual aspects of this show is the fact that it has occupied two prized spaces in Venice, purely because it is so big, 189 pieces to be exact. For this reason, it may be wise to split your visit into two days, or at least break it up with a spritz in between.

The first location is the renowned Palazzo Grassi, located near the Accademia bridge (just a few steps away from, Venini Apartment). Built between 1748 and 1772 by architect Giorgio Massari, Palazzo Grassi was the last palace to be built on the Grand Canal before the fall of the Venetian Republic.  It has long had a connection with the arts, dating as far back at 1951, but more recently has focused on contemporary art since being bought by François Pinault.   However, the Palazzo has retained its Venetian style and demonstrates some of the most spectacular frescoes. When you think about it, it is a very good allegory of Venice itself.62769-Damien_Hirst_Palazzo_Grassi_Atrium

Ponte Della Dogana, on the other hand is a rather unique location in Venice. Whilst originally a Sea Customs House, it reopened in 2009 as a space for contemporary art under the Pinault foundation. It has retained a lot of this in the characteristics. But coincidentally lends itself perfectly to large scale exhibitions.

The concept:

Damien Hirst is renowned for his thought-provoking art, but in recent years he has been fairly quiet after receiving heavy criticism for his latest projects, branded ‘lazy’. Well, this latest exhibition can be called many things, but lazy is not one of them. I visited it with some friends, and what is brilliant is that although not everyone enjoyed it in the same way, it provoked conversations, arguments, rationalisation and new thinking.

Supposedly all the treasures that are on display are the salvaged remains of a ship-wreck discovered in 2008, off the coast of East Africa called ‘The Apistos’ (The Unbelievable). The finding lent credence to the legend of Cif Amotan II, a freed slave from Antioch (north-west Turkey) who lived between the mid-first and early second centuries CE.

Photographed by Christoph Gerigk ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.
Photographed by Christoph Gerigk ©Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.

Hirst begins by explaining the history of the ship-wreck and then the discovery. By the time you have reached the second floor, you are fully emersed and needless to say fully convinced of the historical legitimacy of these findings. Hirst has masterfully observed traditional exploration exhibitions and combined this with our artistic expectations of him.

In a time when we are being constantly bombarded with fake news or atleast dubious news, Hirst raises the interesting question of legend vs fact, and what value there is in believing. Perhaps his intention is to make us think more critically of what we see and read.