Venice Biennale Preview

By Sarah Douglas

VENICE—“You came to Venice, you saw a ton of art, you went to parties, you drank up a storm, you talked bollocks for hours on end and went back to London with a cumulative hangover, liver damage, a notebook almost devoid of notes, and the first tingle of a cold sore.” That’s how Jeff Atman, the jaded hack protagonist of Geoff Dyer’s new novel, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, describes the Venice Biennale, the 53rd edition of which opens to journalists and art-world swells June 4–6 and can be seen by ordinary citizens June 7 to November 22. Whether the Bellinis will be flowing as freely at those many opening parties as in past years is something of an open question, given the grim state of the global economy. And if the booze has narrowed to a trickle, that could spell trouble for Daniel Birnbaum, curator of this year’s 90-plus artist extravaganza, who could well end up having his efforts judged by a grumpy, overtired, dead-sober cadre of art press. To put it less bleakly, maybe everyone will concentrate a bit more on the art, a bit less on the Dionysian antics. While Birnbaum’s Biennale, titled “Making Worlds,” includes some performative, and hence unpictureable, things, such as a parade by musician Arto Lindsay and readings by the Moscow Poetry Club, in the following slide show, you can check out a few of the other artists he has in his lineup.
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