For anyone wanting to visit Venice, I’d urge you to go off season (don’t even think about August) and to consider staying away from the main drag, on either the Dorsoduro or the Guidecca. We stayed at La Calcina, a well run family hotel with terrific views over the water, a great restaurant and the perfect spot to sit and watch the world go by. Sometimes it was tempting to just sit and watch rather than look at art. The Pensione Accademia is also excellent, quiet and with a pretty garden from which you can see the Grand Canal. Venice isn’t cheap and at around 250 euros a night per adult, these two hotels work out as ‘reasonable’. Middleagedad researched some very good Air B&B apartments on the Guidecca too, which we will try out next time.
Staying on either the Dorsoduro or the Guidecca brings you closer to residential Venice, where real people live and the fabulous bakeries, food shops and of course restaurants they use. Hang out around Campo San Barnaba would be my advice, where the floating vegetable shops and the wonderful pasticceria Palnono Colussi are irresistible.
Anyway, back to the art….
If you are visiting this year, then make sure you visit Slip of The Tongue, the Biennale show curated by hot-artist-of-the-moment Danh Vo (ahem, we wrote about him here) in the Punta della Dogna, the Old Custom House, restored and owned by François Pinault. If you’ve ever wondered where those profits from luxury good go, (Mr Pinault owns Kering) it’s here.
The space is glorious with some of the best views of Venice and the art – challengingly modern for some – is well curated and uncluttered. Below is Roni Horn’s Gold Field, with a back drop of the Guidecca.
There were many highlights in this exhibition, but one of youngestson’s was this one below, Work by Sadamasa Montonaga, which he said reminded him ‘of how his head feels sometimes’ .
I fell for this David Hammons Unititled piece below, which you may think looks like a few layers of ripped plastic sheet, and you’d be right. It took on a delicate ethereal beauty hung against the building’s brickwork, which sounds ‘arty bollocks’ I know, perhaps you just had to be there.
Too much art can do your head in, so it’s joyous that Venice has the best walks of any city, with lots of delightful things to see to clear your head. Everywhere is an Instagram moment.
We bought a two day ticket to the Biennale and saw the Pavilions on day one and the Arsenale – which is one long building full of curated art, with a few tag-on country pavilions who don’t have their own sites -on day two. One very important address to take with you is for the Antica Osteria da Gino a tiny, canal side restaurant that no one can ever find but is one of the nicest places to eat in Venice (but remember Venice is NOT cheap). I’m sharing this with you on the understanding you don’t tell too many people please. When we were there, this year’s curator of the art Biennale Okwui Enwezor and fab American artist Carrie Mae Weems were on one of its five tables.We had a lot of fun eavesdropping #lipsaresealed
Over at the Arsenale, which can be a bit overwhelming due to the amount of art on show, I liked Chris Ofili’s textural paintings, above, can you see the botanical prints on the wall behind?
And below is Lorna Simpson’s work, who was the first African American women ever to show at the Venice Biennale (in 1993). I didn’t know Lorna’s work and I absolutely love its powerful simplicity, take a look at her website if she’s new to you too.
Round the back of the Arsenale is a quiet residential area which is charming to wander around. Don’t you love the floating herb garden below?
And finally a few other highlights from the Pavilions, I loved Revolutions at the French Pavilion, which had moving trees in a soundscape of tweeting birds and forest rustlings…yep, the pine tree and its root system below (neatly held together with clay) moved very slowly across the floor, so slowly it took you a while to notice. It put a new spin on going for a walk in the woods…and I’m thinking, new ways with Christmas trees….?
And I left off a woman artist representing her country on last week’s post, Pamela Rosenkranz filled the Swiss pavilion full of pink (solid colour was def a trend at the Biennale!); pink walls, pink water (Evian, I think) in a giant pool and a shot of pale pink florescent lighting. The pink represents the standardised skin tone of Northern Europeans. It was strangely mesmeric and soothing.
My favourite off-site pavilion, tucked away near the Accademia Bridge, was Sean Scully’s Land Sea at the Palazzo Falier. When I win the lottery and after I’ve bought Great Dixter, I’m buying this palazzo apartment for giant parties, you’ll be invited.
Sean Scully’s bold colourful stripes have a textural drama in the brush strokes, colour juxtaposition and size. Some of the work is painted onto aluminium, which gives it a vibrant glow, With the same lottery winnings, I’m buying the painting below this one.