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Vatican to finally have pavilion at Venice Biennale

The Holy See joins eight countries showing at the biennial for the first time, and curator Massimiliano Gioni outlines his vision for an “Encyclopedic” exhibition

Paolo Baratta, the president of the Venice Biennale, with Massimiliano Gioni, the director of the 55th exhibition, in Venice (Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti, courtesy la Biennale di Venezia)

The Vatican is finally due to have its own pavilion at the next Venice Biennale (1 June-24 November 2013), after speculation and delays since the idea was first mooted in 2009. At a press conference yesterday, “the vice president of the promoting committee for the Holy See’s pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2013 was present,” says a statement. The Art Newspaper understands that the Venice Biennale president, Paolo Baratta, will make a space available for the Vatican at the Arsenale site.

Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, said: “The Holy See wants to choose the best contemporary art and not expose itself to criticism" (The Art Newspaper, November 2010). Paolucci declined to comment on the works to be shown in Venice but earlier this year, the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that “the artists will include fewer than ten men and women from various countries around the world, some of whom are established artists and others who are just emerging. Their subject matter will be the first 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis.”

Eight countries will also participate for the first time in next year's biennale: the Bahamas, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Republic of Kosovo, Kuwait, the Maldives, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Paraguay. In 2011, 89 international pavilions, the most ever, were accessible in the Giardini and across the city.

Meanwhile, the curator of the 2013 Venice Biennale, Massimiliano Gioni, has outlined his vision for the world's most prestigious exhibition. Organising the biennale's headline exhibitions in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni and the Arsenale is the high point of most curators’ career, so all eyes will be on Gioni, the Italian-born associate director of the New Museum, New York, who has devised the title “The Encyclopedic Palace” for the Italian event.

This concept is inspired by the late artist Marino Auriti who, says Gioni, “on November 16, 1955 filed a design with the US Patent office depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge, bringing together the greatest discoveries of the human race, from the wheel to the satellite”.

The American Folk Art Museum in New York owns Auriti's 11-foot-tall architectural model of a 136-storey, cylindrical skyscraper entitled The Encyclopedic Palace. The palace was “an entirely new concept in museums, designed to hold all the works of man in whatever field, discoveries made and those which may follow”, Auriti wrote. The artist hoped that the building would be erected on the Mall in Washington, D.C.; the sculpture, however, was stored in a warehouse for several decades.

Adriano Pedrosa, the co-curator of the 2011 Istanbul Biennial, says: “[Curator] Bice Curiger's nostalgic concept for the 2011 biennale [“Illuminazioni”] has contaminated this one, as her theme of Illuminations, and its nod to the Enlightenment, unfolds into Gioni's 'Encyclopedia'. Both hark back to the golden age of 17th-century Europe at a moment when the continent is in crisis. Gioni's challenge is to go beyond the Eurocentric perspective from which his concept departs, a trap that caught his Swiss predecessor in 2011.”

In an interview in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Gioni addresses the issue of incorporating older pieces, saying: “I will go up to the 20th century with some works from the late 19th century.” He also discusses the market-driven aspect of the Venice Biennale, adding: “I don't want people to ask the prices of the works and how to buy them, but want them to consider the objects.”

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18 Dec 12
16:22 CET



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