Italy At The Venice Biennale Where Artists Speak In Creative Dialogue

Marinel Valentini

Italian creativity will return once more to the cultural centre stage when the doors of the recently renovated Padiglione Italia reopen on June 1st, 2013 for the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale. Presenting original artworks and installations, the majority of which were specifically made for this year’s exhibition, the 14 artists chosen by curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi will guide visitors through the Italian Art of the past and the present, bringing them on a journey inside their complex worlds in which dualism reigns over all.
Vice versa is the title chosen by MACRO Director and curator Pietromarchi for the Italian Pavilion at the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale. The host country’s national pavilion, which was renovated in 2009 to a capacious 1800-square metres exhibition space, will welcome the works of 14 artists. All those represented are Italian except one, Sislej Xhafa, a multi-media artist from Kosovo with strong relations to the country of the Belle Arti. The other 13 contemporary artists are: Francesco Arena, Massimo Bartolini, Gianfranco Baruchello, Elisabetta Benassi, Flavio Favelli, Luigi Ghirri, Piero Golia, Francesca Grilli, Marcello Maloberti, Fabio Mauri, Giulio Paolini, Marco Tirelli, and Luca Vitone. The Padiglione Italia will be divided into seven areas, each environment featuring two artists who reveal through their installations a profound creative dialogue with one another, thus creating seven distinct juxtapositions of contemporary artworks.
Pietromarchi chose the Latin phrase ‘vice versa’ as the theme for the Italian Pavilion in recognition of philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s theory, which asserts that to understand Italian culture one must necessarily identify a ‘series of diametrically linked concepts’ capable of describing its underlying characteristics. Binomials such as tragedy/comedy, architecture/vagueness and speed/agility are but a few examples that highlight this peculiar dimension of ‘duality’, one of the most prominent aspects of Italian contemporary art. Vice Versa will therefore be presented as an exploration of the fundamental traits of Italy‘s cultural and contemporary artistic identity.

Francesco Arena, Pietra Con Lucciole, 2011/Francesco Arena


Historical, political and social episodes from Italian news of the past few decades are investigated and reinterpreted by Arena through his sculptural works, often created using artisanal techniques. His most recent solo and group exhibitions have been held in various sites, in Italy and abroad, including Casa Encendida, Madrid (2013), Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2012), Galeria Raquel Arnaud, San Paolo, Brasil (2012), and Museion, Bolzano (2012).

Massimo Bartolini, Handrail (Pensive Bodhisattva), 2013/Frith Street Gallery


Through the use of diverse materials and techniques, Bartolini creates new dimensions where objects of his studies are decontextualised and inserted in a new environment. The viewer, with his senses and his perceptions, plays a determining role in these works, exploring new viewpoints and acquiring a fresh sensibility to objects and places. Bartolini has exhibited extensively in Italy and abroad. In 2013 alone, he held solo exhibitions in Ghent, London, and Edinburgh. In 2012, his works were shown at the 13th edition of dOCUMENTA, one of the world’s most important exhibitions for contemporary art.

Gianfranco Baruchello, La Soluzione E’ il Problema 1974/ Galleria Milano

An artist and a painter of international fame, Baruchello dedicated his life to art in 1959, when he left his hometown of Livorno to start his artistic training in Paris. It was in the Ville-Lumière that Baruchello first met French-American artist Marcel Duchamp. Maintaining an independent path, Baruchello has experimented with various media, including painting and drawing, video and film, writing and poetry, theatre and production of objects, progressively moving away from traditional languages. His works have been exhibited in several prestigious international venues, such as the Guggenheim in New York, Galleria Milano in Italy, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Making references to cultural, political and artistic traditions of the 20th century, to psychoanalysis as well as to controversial contemporary themes, Benassi’s work settles in the multifaceted space of our present. Reconstructing a different way of reading reality through video, photography and installations, she inspires strong emotion and moral questioning in her viewers. Her most recent exhibitions include: Voglio fare subito una mostra, Fondazione Merz, Turin (2013); Mutatis Mutandis, Wiener Secession, Vienna (2012); and the Venice Bienniale, ILLUMInazioni/ ILLUMInations (2011).

Flavio Favelli, Manhattan Club, 2011/Cardi Black Box Gallery


Favelli’s experimentation draws together innovation, memory and tradition and reclaims the artisanal creativity of artistic work, concretised in the physicality of real places. He assembles and disassembles, cuts and mounts diverse objects and pieces of furniture creating aesthetically and emotionally dense realities. He has held numerous solo and group exhibitions, in public and private spaces in Italy and abroad, including the 11th Havana Biennal in Cuba (2012), Spazio, MAXXI, Rome (2010), Cardi Black Box Gallery, Milan (2011), La Maison Rouge, Paris (2007), and the 50th Venice Biennale (2003).

Luigi Ghirri, Argine Agosta: Comacchio, 1989/Biblioteca Panizzi

LUIGI GHIRRI (b. 1943 – d. 1992)

Recognized as one of the 20 most important figures in 20th century Photography, Ghirri is also known to have marked a turning point in the panorama of Italian photography when in 1982 he began to depict landscapes and urban spaces. The cropped images of landscapes he photographed evoke subtle emotional tones and a rich way of viewing the world. His works are held by various collections around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), the Polaroid Collection in Cambridge, MA, and the MoMA in New York.

Paolo Golia, Tattoo, 2011/ Ernesto Esposito/Museo MADRE

PIERO GOLIA (b.1974)

Through a variety of media, from installation to performance to sculpture, Golia’s works call into question the boundaries between reality and the imagination, the possible and the impossible and veracity and fiction. What distinguishes the artist’s conceptual practice is his rational yet deliberately ironic approach. An example of one of his most memorable works is Tattoo (2001), in which the artist convinces a woman to tattoo a life size portrait of himself on her back. Golia’s works have been presented in important institutions in Europe and the U.S., including MAXXI, Rome (2011), MOCA, Los Angeles (2010), and MADRE, Naples (2001).

Grilli experiments in the realm of sound, exploring its vast expressive potential. Preferring the language of performance, the starting points for her work stem from private and personal elements and end with the inclusion of the spectator within the action space, drawing them into an unstable territory. Venues in which her works have been exhibited include MACRO, Rome (2012), MAMbo, Bologna (2010), MADRE, Naples (2012), and the Serpentine Gallery, London (2010).

Marcello Maloberti, Himalaya, 2012/Marcello Maloberti


Maloberti’s practice is greatly inspired by scenarios of contemporary daily life, which he transforms into spectacles of wonder, expectation and desire. Performance, installation, collage and video footage are used to engage viewers, conveying a sense of organised chaos and of personal and collective imagery. Within these works Maloberti also employs word games, and blurs the boundaries between irony and melancholy. His solo and group shows include those at the MACRO, Rome (2012), the Museum of Modern Art of Ljubljana (2011), the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2010), and the Milan Trienniale (2008 and 2012).

Fabio Mauri, Muro Occidentale o del Pianto, 1993/ Comune di Milano

Fabio Mauri (b. 1926 – d. 2009)

Mauri’s extensive creative portfolio ranges from performances and installations to painting and publishing. Alongside his artistic practice, he taught Aesthetics of Experimentation at the Academy of Fine Arts in Aquila, Italy. He participated in the Venice Biennale in 1954, 1974, 1978 and 1993, for which he exhibited his memorable piece Muro Occidentale o del Pianto. In 2012 his work was seen at dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, and at Palazzo Reale, Milan, with the exhibition Fabio Mauri. The End.

Giulio Paolini, Aria, 1983-84/Fondazione Paolini


Considered the leading exponent of Arte Povera, Paolini’s artistic practice explores the conception of the work of art, its essence and how it manifests itself. Trained as a graphic designer, he has continued his investigations through diverse media including painting, sculpture and photography. The artist has held exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide since the 1960s, including the Gallery of Modern Art in his hometown Turin, and has been invited numerous times to participate in the dOCUMENTA Contemporary Art Exhibition in Kassel and the Venice Biennale.

Marco Tirelli, [Untitled], 2009/Exibart


Tirelli’s painting is the result of a complex intellectual process. He begins with the recording of visual data, which he distills into pure forms and allusions to space and light. His practice moves beyond the investigation of the relationship between form and light, and the possibilities and limits of human perception. He first presented his work at the Venice Biennale in 1982, and has had important solo shows at various sites, including MACRO in Rome (2012), and the Fortuny Palace in Venice (2010).
LUCA VITONE (b. 1964)

Vitone focuses on the idea of lieu, and explores the way in which places acquire their identity through cultural production, architecture, food and politics. Using a language that brings in elements from other disciplines, such as sociology, geography, music and literature, Vitone investigates the mechanisms that tie men to their homeland and to the surrounding environment. He has exhibited in private and public exhibition spaces in Italy and abroad, including the MACRO, Rome (2012), the Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2005), and the Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Nice (2004). He also participated in the 13th edition of the Biennale of Sculpture in Carrara (2009), and the 50th edition of the Venice Biennale (2003).

Sislej Xhafa, Axis of Silence, 2008/Serge Fruehauf

SISLEJ XHAFA (b. 1970)

Kosovo-native Xhafa is the only non-Italian artist among the group of 14 exhibiting at the Padiglione Italia. Xhafa, a former student at Florence’s ‘Accademia di Belle Arti’, is a contemporary artist whose practice spans diverse forms of expression: video, performances, photography and installations. His works are mostly ironic yet subversive exposés of social, political, and economical issues, which he investigates in relation to the complexities of modern society. A true man of the world – having lived in places such as London, Bruxelles and New York – Xhafa has exhibited his pieces in several international venues, among which: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto (2011), Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan (2009), and the Istanbul Museum Of Modern Art, Istanbul (2007).
Italy Team

Artists: Francesco Arena, Massimo Bartolini, Gianfranco Baruchello, Elisabetta Benassi, Flavio Favelli, Luigi Ghirri, Piero Golia, Francesca Grilli, Marcello Maloberti, Fabio Mauri, Giulio Paolini, Marco Tirelli, Luca Vitone, Sislej Xhafa

Commissioner: Maddalena Ragni

Curator: Bartolomeo Pietromarchi

Venue: The Italian Pavilion, Tese delle Vergini at Arsenale
About The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Project

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will take place from 1 June – 24 November. The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Series is an article series leading up to the start of the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in this year’s Biennale —10 of them for the first time— and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage over the next couple of months will highlight a selection of the National Pavilions that will be participating in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale. Watch this space for our daily Venice Biennale updates on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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