Venice Biennale Italy

France and Germany embrace new world order

Germany Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Increasingly porous geopolitical boundaries and the ever-more cosmopolitan background of artists are allowing contemporary curators to make bold choices in Venice’s national pavilions. At this year’s Biennale, France and Germany are swapping buildings. Christine Macel, the French curator, and her German counterpart, Susanne Gaensheimer, say the idea had been discussed as far back as ten years ago, but this year is the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, or Treaty of Friendship, between the two countries, and therefore a fitting occasion for the gesture.

Macel believes “a new global culture has emerged within the art world thanks to globalisation”. But are they suggesting the national pavilion model is outdated or even embarrassing? Gaensheimer says not, “as long as you think of national identity as a chance to represent the complexities of a country”. Accordingly, of the four artists representing Germany, only Romuald Karmakar is German, while the other three, Ai Weiwei, Santu Mofokeng and Dayanita Singh, are not, although they “all have a strong relationship to Germany”, says Gaensheimer.

Anri Sala, who has both Albanian and French nationality and is partly based in Berlin, is representing France. The Institut Français, which commissioned the pavilion, says Sala’s double nationality was of little importance, but that “the quality of his work took precedence”. Similarly, only one out of 12 artists in the Kenyan pavilion is a Kenyan national, while the Syrian pavilion, in disarray, counts at least ten Italian artists out of a total of 16, one of whom is Giorgio de Chirico. Meanwhile, Tuvalu, which is taking part for the first time, is represented by the Taiwanese artist Vincent Huang.

Anri Sala (right) and Maribel Verdú during the presentation of the MACBA Collection
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