It’s wise to have some sort of plan when you arrive in La Serenissima. Read the guide and mark out which pavilions you want to see – any more than 10 pavilions in a day might send you into a tailspin.
Don’t spend all day wandering aghast round the vast Arsenale, and its very many video installations. Do make sure you head out into city and onto the satellite Islands for some of the other shows – take the local vaporetti boats which are easy to use.
Some 56 national pavilions represent artists from different countries – usually chosen by government bodies, such as the British Council. In the British pavilion this year is former YBA Sara Lucas with her provocative take on the female body in a bright yellow painted room. Outside the main drag, in the Renaissance Palazzo Fontana, is Glasgow artist Graham Fagen representing Scotland with a work inspired by the poems of Robert Burns. Veteran US artist Joan Jonas is in the American pavilion with a mixed media installation included Venetian glass, mirror and crystal. Chiharu Shiota in the Japan Pavilion has hung over a thousand rusty keys from the ceiling with red yarn. British painter Chris Ofili has a room to himself in the main exhibition.
If that’s all too much for you, Isaac Julien is staging a continuous reading of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital from a specially designed stage in the Biennale gardens.
For something more physical, drop a few holes of crazy golf in a work commissioned by satirical artist Doug Fishbone as an ironic ‘East Midlands Pavilion’ (on show until 26 July).
Local museums host sympathetic exhibitions too. The Guggenheim is showing Jackson Pollock’s largest painting ever, Mural (1943) on show after an 18-month restoration project at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles.
And don’t forget Venice itself – one of the pillars of the Renaissance world, producer of its own glorious painting style, that of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese et al. Make sure you visit the Accademia to see the old masters.
If you’re going to Venice this year, have fun! And, let us know in the comments of any exhibits you recommend. We’d love to hear from you.