Adam Lindemann: Gioni's "Encyclopaedic Palace" delivers

Any doubts there may have been about the youngest curator to ever do the Venice Biennale were extinguished by a visit to the Arsenale. The show, titled "The Encyclopaedic Palace", could have been called "The Tower of Babel". It was based on a dream-tower designed to hold all the world's knowledge, but the show really ends up being a homage to outsider artists and those who operate on the fringes of the system.

Marino Auriti's Encyclopaedic Palace of the World, designed in the 1950s.

Though a pedantic look at the artist roster would still find a few market darlings like the Wade Guyton paintings and the occasional Charles Ray sculpture in the mix, for the most part the show did it right, and in a big way. "It eez very deeffeecoolt to instahhll such a show weeth no boodget, yet it loooks grreat" said Gioni’s mentor, the retired artist Maurizio Cattelan, and he was right. This focus on outsider and fringe artists is a kind of antidote to what we've seen in the previous editions of the Biennale. I'm all for discovery, even when much of it isn't all that good—but much of it was. I loved Roberto Cuoghi's monumental sculpture at the entrance, and the Hans Josephsohn bronzes in force.

Roberto Cuoghi, Belinda, 2013

Phyllida Barlow's hanging sculptures were perfect and I liked the strange Max Ernst-y paintings and sculptures by Jessica Jackson Hutchins—they were a blast from an unknown past.

Phyllida Barlow's Untitled series, 2012.

Of course we also found the artist of the moment, Danh Vo. His dismembered cathedral fit the theme and looked almost beautiful. Meanwhile the Japanese ceramicist Shinichi Sawada seemed to hit the bullseye best: weird, unknown, beautiful and valid. Overall it was a really enjoyable show and a good break from the Biennale rut we’ve become all too used to. Bravo Massimilano Gioni, grazie per il lavoro!

A sculpture from Sinichi Sawada's Untitled series, made between 2000 and 2012

Adam Lindemann is an art collector and a columnist for the NY Observer

Published Wed, 29 May 2013 14:30:00 GMT

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