Drinking-in the Venice Biennale’s Milk of Dreams

La Biennale's central pavilion
La Biennale's central pavilion

Title:
International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia

From: 23 Apr 2022

To: 27 Nov 2022

Venice
Other

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One of the foremost engagements on the international cultural calendar, the International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, or the Biennale Arte, has opened for its 59th edition, welcoming back art fans after its 2020 edition necessarily remained online, due to Covid restrictions. This year’s themes fall under the bewitching title The Milk of Dreams – taken from the book by Leonora Carrington, about the surreal imagination – and curated by Cecilia Alemani. Cecilia is the first Italian woman to hold the post, and has focused the festival on three thematic areas: the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses, the relationship between individuals and technologies, and  the connection between bodies and the Earth.

Among the artists representing Scotland is Glasgow-based Alberta Whittle, whose installation deep dive (pause) uncoiling memory incorporates tapestry, film and sculpture, on display at the Docks Cantieri Cucchini, in collaboration with the Scotland + Venice partnership.

In the run-up to La Biennale’s public opening on 23rd April, Artmag contributor Susan Mansfield (Twitter: @wordsmansfield) is attending the Biennale press opening and has sent the following images and accounts of Biennale highlights, including an exhibition whose opening was addressed by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky:

‘President Zelensky of Ukraine addressed the opening of a special exhibition last night at the Venice Biennale, ‘This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom’. The show, organised rapidly in response to the invasion by Russia, is being staged as part of the Biennale’s collateral programme. The exhibition, in the towering spaces of Venice’s Scuole Grande de la Misericordia, features historical and contemporary art from Ukraine, as well as works beings presented in solidarity by artists including Damien Hirst, Marina Abramavic and Olafur Eliasson.

Speaking on livestream at the opening President Zelensky made an impassioned appeal to artists and cultural leaders to support Ukraine with their words and work. He said: “There are no tyrannies that would not try to limit art because they can see the power of art. Art can tell the world things that cannot be shared otherwise.

“One cannot express with words the feelings of a girl who is writing a letter to her dead mother in Mariupol, who died from Russian shelling a week before…, the feelings of Ukrainian soldiers seeing hundreds of dead bodies lying on the ground…, the feelings of medics in the streets of Kharkiv… the feeling of having lost your home, which now millions of Ukrainian men and women have… It is art that conveys feelings.

“I am sure the exhibition will allow people to feel what it means for Ukraine to defend freedom. To feel the bond between all free people on planet Earth and Ukraine. To feel that each and every one of you can support the fight for freedom… Support us with your art, but also support us with your words and your influence.”

The exhibition is presented by the Pinchuk Art Centre and Victor Pinchuk Foundation, set up by Ukrainian millionaire Victor Pinchuk, in partnership with the Office of the President of the Ukraine and Ministry of Culture and Information Policy.

The works include 300 photographs of mothers who lost sons during the 2014-15 war in Ukraine, and the photograph of a little Ukrainian girl, Valeriia, by French artist JR, enlarged so it can be seen by Russian bombers and spread out in the main square in Lviv, which featured on the cover of time magazine.

British artist Damien Hirst responded immediately to the request for a work for the exhibition by creating ‘Sky Over Corn Field’, [see below], a new butterfly painting in the colours of the Ukraine flag.”

New butterfly painting by Damian Hirst for the exhibition, ‘Sky Over Corn Fields’
New butterfly painting by Damian Hirst for the exhibition, ‘Sky Over Corn Fields’
Portrait of Valeriia, a five year old Ukrainian girl, created by French artist JR and featured on the cover of Time Magazine
Portrait of Valeriia, a five year old Ukrainian girl, created by French artist JR and featured on the cover of Time Magazine
The image photographed from the air
The image photographed from the air
Signs for the exhibition featuring a 'work' by President Zelensky - his handwritten message and signature
Signs for the exhibition featuring a ‘work’ by President Zelensky – his handwritten message and signature
Portraits of 300 Ukrainian women who lost their sons in the 2014-15 war
Portraits of 300 Ukrainian women who lost their sons in the 2014-15 war
The work of Simone Leigh at the American pavilion - the first black woman to represent USA at the Biennale
The work of Simone Leigh at the American pavilion – the first black woman to represent USA at the Biennale
The work of Simone Leigh at the American pavilion - the first black woman to represent USA at the Biennale
The work of Simone Leigh at the American pavilion
The work of Simone Leigh at the American pavilion - the first black woman to represent USA at the Biennale
The work of Simone Leigh at the American pavilion
The work of Katharina Fritsch in the festival's central pavilion
The work of Katharina Fritsch in La Biennale’s central pavilion
The work of Sonia Boyce at the British Pavilion
The work of Sonia Boyce at the British pavilion

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