The Venice Biennale according to Antonio Grulli

Antonio Grulli kicks off our collection of hot evaluations from the 2022 Venice Biennale curated by Cecilia Alemani. With a mention also for the national pavilions (not the Italian ones) and the exhibitions in the lagoon

My feelings about this Biennale with the title are still very fresh The milk of dreams but i will try to write a warm comment. It seems to me that Cecilia Alemani managed to create a very nice exhibition – in the almost classical sense of the word -, strong, perfectly set up and, a fundamental and foundational element of any exhibition, with many works of great quality.
It is a biennial with a strong surrealist imprint (as it was intended), connected with the present, with today, but able to go further: it covers many issues of the politically correct, today the public discussion dominates in almost all over the West, and especially in America where the curator lives, but it doesn’t choke her, doesn’t stiffen her, and the rhetorical tone rarely shows up in some of the captions, but not in the works; the risk was there.
There is a lot of figurative painting, which was unimaginable a few years ago, while I seem to have noticed a smaller presence of videos compared to previous editions: a probably correct choice given the magnitude of these types of events, forcing visits for many hours.

Biennale Arte 2022, Milk of dreams, Exhibition view in Central Pavilion, ph Irene Fanizza
Biennale Arte 2022, Milk of dreams, Exhibition view in Central Pavilion, ph Irene Fanizza


The impression is that the central pavilion of the Giardini is more successful than the Arsenale. Some of the rooms stand out, such as the great and appropriate tribute to Paula rego, one of the few living giants of art, whose paintings of absolute quality and unforgettable sculptures are presented for their power and ability to deeply disturb. Also the space dedicated to the Swiss artist Mirjam Cahn or the great room where the stained glass sculptures of To go Ursutathat seem to come out Mad Maxinteraction profitable in contrast to the rigor of the masonry – with a soft appearance but with a soul as sharp as a razor – from rosemarie trolling.
The work I loved the most is undoubtedly the video of Nan goldin titled Sirens, made in the last three years using only found footage for the first time in its career; is a poignant tribute to Donyale Luna, actress and supermodel who died of an overdose in 1979. In the work, she is portrayed by the films in which she starred, directed by directors such as Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol and our Federico Fellini and Carmelo Bene , for which literally embodied a Salome with an alien appearance. The soundtrack is a flute music created by the composer Mica Levi, and only a breath coming from the lips can accompany a video aimed at a soul as light as it is fragile: I don’t think anyone knows how music and image as Nan Goldin, here with her first (!) Venice Biennale. This is without a doubt the freshest, simplest, cleanest and most in-depth work of the exhibitionand it’s exactly the kind of work I’d like to see come out of the studios of young artists, hopefully it sounds like an alarm clock.
The only doubt I have about the whole event is the strong presence of past artists who have already passed away, as an artist friend pointed out to me. It is not the first Biennale in which this has happened, and it has now become a clear practice: to develop his own theory, the curator can actually draw from anywhere, but perhaps these should again become the events in which the new production of young artists is presented. not, potentially with a view to the future.

Biennale Arte 2022, Milk of dreams, Exhibition view in Central Pavilion, ph Irene Fanizza
Biennale Arte 2022, Milk of dreams, Exhibition view in Central Pavilion, ph Irene Fanizza


The presence of young Italian artists is interesting and mature. The monumental installation, outside the long sleeve of the Arsenale, by Giulia cencia, which marks a further step in his professional growth and shows that he is now one of our international artists, able to face a hard confrontation like that of a Biennale and not afraid of a giant staircase, which but few in Italy have the courage to exercise. I believe his work can be considered one of the best examples of how we can move beyond Duchamp in sculpture by re-appropriating plasticity, figuration, and subjects considered dead – such as the equestrian element – ​​without reeking of nostalgia.
Less successful was the inclusion of Italian artists from previous generations, in some cases attendees whose necessity and coherence with the overall theme I did not understand.

Marlene Dumas.  Open End Exhibition View in Palazzo Grassi, Venice 2022
Marlene Dumas. Open End Exhibition View in Palazzo Grassi, Venice 2022


Among the side events I want to highlight the anthological exhibition of Marlene Dumas at Palazzo Grassi: a masterpiece. It is a huge anthology that can sum up the career of one of the greatest living artists. Compared to the major exhibition dedicated to her a few years ago – traveling past important museums such as the Tate – it seems to me that in this case they have succeeded in creating something even more vibrant and moving; the selection of the works focuses on the part of the works that is more related to sexuality and less to political aspects. A representation of the human being in a fluid and lyrical way, but able to preserve all the ambiguity and the dark sides of the feelings and sensations associated with the body and desire as something precious.
The national pavilions, on the other hand, were weak, at least from what I could see. Except in rare cases, such as that of Belgium with FrancisTo thes† I seem to see that among these there is hardly anything that can leave its mark, as happened with Anne Imohf’s German Pavilion.

Antonio Grullic

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