this rubric – is now one of five competing for financial resources and
staff time, and that relatively few members of that staff have expertise Robert
in visual arts, and that no one at the top of the administration does.
Under those circumstances a great deal rests on whether the director
is well chosen and strongly supported by the institution all along the
way – and that means money and professional standards for dealing Storr
with artists, art works, patrons and the public. Otherwise the people
who provide the content of the show and keep the aesthetic level high
– curators and artists in particular, but also lenders, sponsors of projects
and the national representatives – will increasingly concentrate on
the biennials that are most open and most responsive to their needs
and to those of art. TIME WILL TELL HOW THINGS DEVELOP,
The director of this month’s Venice BUT IT WON’T TAKE MUCH TIME endash.cap MUCH LESS THAN A DECADE endash.cap BEFORE THE VENICE BIENNALE REACHES THE
Biennale discusses the pros and cons of TIPPING POINT, POSITIVELY OR NEGATIVELY. ONE THING
putting together one of the world’s most IS CERTAIN, AT ONE HUNDRED TWELVE IT CAN NO LONGER REST ON ITS LAURELS.
famous art exhibitions
What kind of experience do you hope to provide visitors with?
Making a sharply focused thematic exhibition at the Biennale is
impossible given the nature of the spaces available – a grand old Beaux
Arts-style maze of galleries in the Italian Pavilion, and an engulfing
arcade-like space in the Arsenale – and given the fact that the two are
separated. It is possible – or at least I hope it is possible – to present works
that are distinctive and various in such a manner that their sequencing
creates a texture of correspondences that in the ensemble will help
people to see interlocking attitudes towards problems and aesthetic
approaches that define key aspects of the present moment. This is
not a show about my ideas but rather one about the ideas of artists
of different generations, working in different media in many different
parts of the world and the patterns and contrasts their responses to
current realities reveal. By itself art cannot remake the world (that was
Photo: Giorgio Zucchiatti. Courtesy Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia the utopian dream of much of early Modernism, but history has rudely
awakened us and ensures that the imagination must now function in a
state of alert insomnia), but it can articulate things in a way that allows
us to address the contradictions we live out with greater clarity and
Why is the Venice Biennale important to the artworld? Is it just a
tradition or does it have relevance today, particularly in view of the In the last issue of ArtReview, Documenta’s artistic director, Roger M.
proliferation of biennials and art fairs? Buergel, stated that ‘the Biennale system is more deadly [for artists]
than the market. No one is really questioning what you are doing. You
Robert Storr: are just in or out.’ What is your response to that?
THE FUTURE IMPORTANCE OF THE VENICE BIENNALE
IS AN OPEN QUESTION. In some ways its predicament and its Roger is a smart man, and I am surprised to hear that he has said this.
potential is dependent on questions similar to those that one asks of In any case, if it is true, then certainly Documenta, which comes around
older museums in relation to newer ones. In a crowded field of younger every five years instead of two, is also part of the problem. THE HARD
institutions capable of moving more quickly and more decisively, as TRUTH IS THAT ARTISTS HAVE CHOICES TO MAKE WHEN
well as those more inclined and more able administratively to take IT COMES TO THE OPPORTUNITIES MADE AVAILABLE
advantage of their urban and cultural environment – the age and BY THE EXHIBITION SYSTEM AND IN THE MARKET. SOME
fragility of Venice plus the many-layered and far from coordinated CHOOSE WELL ACCORDING TO THEIR TALENTS, WORK
bureaucracies involved (the municipality that controls the Giardini, the RHYTHMS AND THE INHERENT CHARACTERISTICS OF
Navy that controls the Arsenale and the Foundation of the Biennale THEIR WORK, AND SOME CHOOSE BADLY AND BURN
which oversees the permanent management) – the Venice Biennale THEMSELVES OUT OR OVEREXPOSE THEMSELVES. Being
is decidedly at a disadvantage when it comes to the more innovative ‘in’ or ‘out’ is not decided by presence or absence from a single group
options that set the pace for curators in this domain. I am thinking megashow or even a season of group megashows any more than it
for example of what has recently been done in Istanbul, or is done is by being everywhere or nowhere during a year of gallery shows.
in Münster every ten years. Add to that the fact that the Biennale There are quite a few veterans in my exhibition who have sustained
of Visual Arts – which was once the only Biennale presented under their art and their careers over decades precisely by not spreading
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