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Curators have mixed reactions to artist roster for Venice Biennale

Many colleagues expect Massimiliano Gioni to put on a “beautiful” show, but there are some complaints of the dominance of European and American artists

Massimiliano Gioni

The selection of artists by the curator Massimiliano Gioni for this year’s Venice Biennale (1 June-24 November) has drawn mixed reactions from other leading curators. Gioni, the Italian-born associate director of the New Museum, New York, has devised the title “The Encyclopedic Palace” for the biennale’s headline exhibitions in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and the Arsenale.

His concept is inspired by the late artist Marino Auriti who, Gioni says, “on 16 November 1955, filed a design with the US Patent Office depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge, bringing together the greatest discoveries of the human race, from the wheel to the satellite”.

Gioni’s line-up includes emerging figures such as Ed Atkins, Neïl Beloufa and Simon Denny, alongside biennial regulars such as Charles Ray, Phyllida Barlow and Tacita Dean (the latter participated in the Venice Biennale in 2003 and 2005). Cindy Sherman, who is also included, featured heavily in the 2011 Venice Biennale when the curator Bice Curiger devoted a room to the American photographer’s work.

“Gioni’s shows are always very close to the pulse of the latest development in the art world and at the same time they also look at larger and timeless question of the human condition. There is a certain popular appeal to the exhibitions he does, which I am not always sure about, but the sentiment of his exhibitions reveals something very existential. They can be rather dark and doubtful,” says Jens Hoffmann, the co-curator of the 2011 Istanbul Biennial and the deputy director of the Jewish Museum, New York.

“The beautiful thing is that Gioni's selections for his larger group shows are always very diverse, they introduce young artists, bring older often forgotten artists back to our attention and he always throws in a few totally unknown or very surprising artists. He does please the art market, perhaps a necessity in regards to the funding he needs for his shows, but he always manages to make the selections very surprising,” Hoffmann added

A leading European curator, who preferred to remain anonymous, underlines that the list is weighted towards European and American artists with only five South American artists featured: “Do the maths: non-European and American artists appear to number 21 out of 154 artists in total, which is about 14%… Gioni, however, has a keen eye and precise curatorial hand, so I am quite sure it will be a beautiful show.” In 2011, we reported that Curiger’s selection showed “a clear bias towards Western European artists with a lesser one towards those from the US”.

Paul Schimmel, meanwhile, has endorsed Gioni’s artist roster. The former chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, posted on Facebook: “I think it looks like a terrific list of artists… new names, old ones, and many doing their best work now.”

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18 Mar 13
2:29 CET


Makes one wonder how an exhibition where only 14% of the artists live in the vast world outside the US and Europe can pretend to have "encyclopedic" ambitions.

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