François Pinault Foundation's Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana
It just so happens that because the 79-year-old French artist Martial Raysse gave up working to lead a reclusive life in the 1970s, his work is not quite known to many. Caroline Bourgeois’ retrospective of 360 works at the Palazzo Grassi which looked fantastic without the walls covered with carpets as Rudolf Stingel as curator did in 2013, included not only François Pinault’s collection but also other loans of paintings, sculptures and videos by the artist such as from the Centre Pompidou. I think many visitors so used to bright colors of beaches and happiness must have enjoyed the reprise from the gloominess of the biennale’s theme of end of days and the eventual realization of our futures’ hopelessness. I believe this exhibition would also appeal to the Millennials, an important demographic. It was not arranged chronologically but thematically and was quite informative and educational. Somebody who didn’t know about Raysse would have learned about his life, work and methods.
Danh Vo’s Slip of the Tongue at Punta della Dogana
Danh Vo, Vietnamese-born artist representing the Danish Pavilion at the biennale, also curated the exhibition Slip of the Tongue at the François Pinault Foundation’s Punta della Dogana. The exhibition included around 120 objects from the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries up to now and were displayed sparsely in the Tadao Ando renovated former Customs building. Information about the objects in each room was difficult to find and then remember.
One would enter a space with objects but the wall text for all objects would be all together in one corner.
More importantly I really would have liked to understand what this exhibition was about. The objects were largely disconnected. While there were incredible works by Nancy Spero, and one beautiful work by Carol Rama, I would have completely missed Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ unless I knew it was there and specifically looked for it.
The exhibition booklet had a lot of information about individual objects: for example for Piss Christ, for which Serrano photographed a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of urine, also included the information that following "the attack on 7 January 2015 against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the American press agency Associated Press removed from its online library the image of" the work. While this is quite interesting information, it would have been better kept for docents or tour guides as information to deliver verbally.
Andres Serrano. Piss Christ, 1987
From what I have read elsewhere, this exhibition is about mapping friendships, and there is a section where this can be understood only if you knew those specific artists background and sexual orientations, the common denominator among them. At the same time it also is about Danh Vo’s relationship with his father. While many have said that this exhibition was much better compared to the crowded and cramped works on display at the biennale’s Arsenale, I found it disorienting and completely lacking in, not only story-telling, but also lack of individual stories with a veritable connection among them. Artists have vision and talent but curating an exhibition requires a different set of skills, vision, knowledge and mastery of story-telling techniques that in this case I failed to see in Slip of the Tongue.
This location, Punta della Dogana, literally means the “Tip of the Customs”. It is triangular shaped and separates the Grand Canal and the Giudecca Canal and looks like the "tip of a tongue".