How to Survive the Venice Biennale

Sarah Sze's 'Triple Point'

Sarah Sze’s ‘Triple Point’

This week MD explores how massive group shows like the Venice Biennale can enhance your creativity by inspiring, informing, and helping you sharpen your artistic eyes. Fairs and biennales can overwhelm the eye, mind and body, but as grueling as they are, massive group shows ultimately force us to listen to our intuition and help us sharpen our discerning eye. We’ve picked out five artists from the Venice Biennale that moved us and offer tips on how to make the most of your experience.

1. Mark your map. Know not only who but where your ‘must see’ artists are located. Don’t waste precious time. Prepare to use your mental energy with the work not on getting to it.

Sarah Sze at the American Pavilion

Installation artist Sarah Sze holds her own in the American Pavilion. Curated by Holly Block from the Bronx Museum.

2. Do a run-through. Everyone has a ‘must see’ list, but since you are there give it a run-through. Start at the beginning and go to the end giving everything a quick look no more than 15 seconds per work and make notes for second examinations. This way you see new things and learn what you like and don’t like.

Shock’s projected graffiti was a breath of fresh air at the Venezuelan Pavilion. Curated by Juan Calzadilla.

3. Take a break … Hydrate! Our minds need a break, so before you go for that second examination of those noted works, get a snack and a drink of water to refresh the mind.

This is Alfredo Jaar’s one liner of sinking Venice in the Chilean Pavilion.

4. Look first, read later. Everyone learns differently and every work communicates differently too. First take it in visually then read more. This way you can see if the work correlates to the description before you read it. Otherwise it can taint the whole experience.

Vadim Zakharov’s participatory piece ‘Danae’ left us intrigued and segregated with his division of actions according to gender in the Russian Pavilion.

5. Spend time on things that move you. Listening to our emotions and instincts is a hard business if you aren’t accustomed to it. Our initial thoughts and emotions are there to guide us, so listen up. Artwork that moves us can inform our artistic practice for a lifetime. So if you come upon a work that made you stop, think and feel, highlight it and give it your time.

Still#1 from Neil Beloufa's work Keminski, 2007. Video, 14'

One of the highlights of ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’ is Neil Beloufa’s ‘Keminski’ that took us from reality to science fiction and back again. Beloufa is now officially on MD’s radar. Still#1 from Neil Beloufa’s work Keminski, 2007. Video, 14′

Still #2 from Neil Beloufa's work Keminski, 2007. Video, 14'

Still #2 from Neil Beloufa’s work Keminski, 2007. Video, 14′

Still #3 from Neil Beloufa's work Keminski, 2007. Video, 14'

Still #3 from Neil Beloufa’s work Keminski, 2007. Video, 14 

What are your recommendations on viewing Art?


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2 thoughts on “How to Survive the Venice Biennale

  1. The biggest thing for me is to have enough time in your visit for the Biennale, especially if you are a first time visitor to the city of Venice. Another tip is to try and get the Venice Biennale guide and have that as your reference so that you can fully appreciate both the artist as well as the art – plenty of times where I would find it difficult to read the statement because there are too many grouped around it, or it’s too dark, or I simply cannot find it. I’ve written some advice in my blog at but more focusing on planning the trip as opposed to the art…

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