QUOTATION # 62.

[On the current Venice Biennale ]

1)

“The great strength of art is that it’s able to explore meanings that are ambiguous and complex, that leave you with questions rather than answers. 

And that’s what this show has set out to celebrate……..

I really don’t care about the opening days.

It’s a six-month show. 

People in the art world experience it at these opening days and they think it’s all about superyachts and moneyed people. 

It’s not. 

It’s a show that’s seen by over 600,000 people. A show with a really broad outreach. 

It can speak to people who don’t give a **** about the artworld, about the market, about what auction prices are. 

And that’s the audience I care about.”

RALPH RUGOFF

CREPESCULE: Anane Asare, acrylic on canvas, 1999. Private collection.

2) 

“The place was heaving with characters. 

Artists, posers, dealers, curators, billionaires, bureaucrats, fakes, freeloaders, snobs, journalists, pseuds, hustlers, and narcissists all cramming themselves into tiny spaces and noisy halls to get a glimpse of some box-fresh contemporary art.

They are not a hip crowd like you might find at Coachella or XJAZZ in Berlin. 

They are more clamorous than glamorous. 

Art is a shared interest but not the thing that truly binds them. 

Money and status are the currencies that count. 

You don’t need both, but you sure as hell need one or the other.

This is a once every-other-year event that was established in 1895 to promote Italian art before morphing into an international exhibition with countries competing to be Best in Show.

Mussolini latched onto it in the 1930s as a way of promoting his fascist agenda, leaving a faintly uncomfortable air of nationalism around what is now a global contemporary art event based around nation states.”

WILL GOMPERTZ 

Amon Kotei, watercolor on paper, 1996. Private collection.

3)

“All this flash is by design. 

At the inauguration yesterday—which was attended by Ghana’s First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo—officials were unusually direct about their objective for the project: to enhance Ghana’s position on the global stage and to increase tourism. 

This is art as a tool for soft power—a diplomatic tactic that many countries across the globe have stepped away from as governments continue to slash arts funding.

…..Both the curator of the pavilion, Nana Oforiatta Ayim, and the architect, Adjaye, have been working with the government for years on various other arts initiatives, including the construction of a new cathedral in Accra and the transformation of a 17th-century castle into a museum. 

An ultramodern, 240-acre cultural village is also underway in the capital. 

The Venice exhibition will also travel to Accra after the biennale closes.”

Denzel Oduro, digital print.

“The stakes are high. 

Although Cape Town and Marrakech currently boast more developed arts infrastructure than Accra, no city in Africa has emerged—as Hong Kong has in Asia—as the continent’s clear art-market hub and international meeting place.

………..Still, no country can become a cultural destination without good art and artists. 

But the Venice presentation makes clear that Ghana has those in spades.”

JULIA HALPERIN. 

LET ME BE MYSELF: Akwele Suma Glory, mixed media, 132 x 87 cm, 2010. Private collection.

4)

“FIVE VENICE SHOP STOPPERS…….

Ghana pavilion; Ghana’s first pavilion at Venice is extremely strong: featuring paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, films by John Akomfrah, shimmering bottle-top hangings and tremendous black-and-white portraits from the 1960s by Felicia Abban, Ghana’s first professional female photographer.

………Polish pavilion; A private jet turned inside out, the cockpit disembowelled so that all its controls dangle outside, the seats swinging dangerously in space. Roman Stańczak’s Flight is an antidote to the luxurious superyachts and plutocratic wealth of the Biennale.”

LAURA CUMMING

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