The Preview of the Venice Biennale is always a highlight in my calendar. This year’s theme “The Encyclopedic Palace” curated by New Museum's Massimiliano Gioni is based on an utopian idea of Marino Auriti of a building holding all the world’s knowledge. The combination of carefully curated contemporary art, enthusiasm of first time participants, excitement about new locations and parallel exhibitions, meeting old and new friends, exchanging ideas and the glamour of the most powerful people in the art world (in the photo you see Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim) hitting the lagoon is unbeatable.
We arrived in Venice on Tuesday lunch time and after check in to the Venice classic and art crowd favorite Hotel Monaco Grand Canal, we had lunch on the terrace. We spotted Francois Pinault a couple of tables away, apparently also taking advantage of the few sun rays and the beautiful view at his Punta della Dogana museum. Afterwards, expert art historian Karin Jenette-Martin guided us around the Manet exhibition (a must for everyone travelling to Venice before August 18th, 2013) with the highlight being Manets’s Olympia (1867) and Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1538) being hung next to each other for comparison.
In the evening we accepted Nicholas Logdail’s invitation in honor of Ai WeiWei at the Bauer Palladio. Some members of our group were exited to meet other great German collectors like Ingvild Goetz and Harald Falckenberg.
Our first destination at the actual Biennale were the Giardini with the main pavilion curated by Massimiliano Gioni. He stunned the art world by showing drawings by C.G.Jung, Rudolf Steiners esoteric diagrams , vodoo and tantra paintings and all kind of phantasies by amateur artists combined with artists like Maria Lassnig and Matt Mullican.
The lunch place to be on the opening day is the Il Nuovo Galeon, where my mother Korinna von Kempski Rakoszyn and me hosted a lunch for the Culture & Travel Club. As with all my parties, I try to get a fun mix of people together: There were, of course, our group with the incredible collector and Guggenheim board member Inge Rodenstock, our faithful art and CTC enthusiast Dr. Gisela Kaiser, No 1 Argentinian collector Patricia Pearson Vergez, owner of the Lisson gallery Nicholas Logsdail, two of my favorite artists Christian Jankowski and Jorinde Voigt, art aficionado Count Martin Schaesberg, who is currently building up an exhibition space in his family castle Tannheim and the colorful artforum publisher Knight Landesmann.
Afterwards, we joined François Pinault’s invitation for the preview of the “Prima Materia” exhibition at the Punta della Dogana. The exhibition establishes a dialogue between important historical movements such as Mono-Ha and Arte Povera, as well as in-depth monographic presentations of works by artists such as Llyn Foulkes, Mark Grotjahn and Marlene Dumas. More than half of the artists and almost all the works are presented for the first time in an exhibition by the Francois Pinault Collection. The exhibition is on till New Year 2014/2015, so you have plenty of time to view it.
Dinner at Harry’s Cipriani proved again to be a must to truly enjoy the atmosphere of Venice during the Biennale.
Thursday May 30th we started at the Arsenale. Very impressing among many things were the groups of photographs by the likes of Okhai Ojeikere, Eliot Porter and Christopher Williams. I enjoyed especially a beautiful installation of Walter de Maria, one of my favorite artists, whose lightening fields in New Mexico I yet have to visit. At the VIP shuttle, you could see some of the world’s most important collectors, museum directors and artists patiently getting in line. We crossed over to Arsenale North to view the exhibition Breath of Shirazeh Housiarhy in the Torre di Porta Nuova. The incredible works which seem to draw you into another world found a perfect space in the tower. A private tour by Lisson gallery’s Milan director Annette Hofmann has opened my eyes for this wonderful artist. Definitely one to watch! After quite a climb to the top, we were once more rewarded with splendid 360° views over Venice. Back on the ground, we once again enjoyed the incredible hospitality of Lisson’s Nicholas Logsdail at a small brunch given in the honor of the exhibition. With gigantic plants and deck chairs, they had managed to create a small Nikki Beach in the middle of the Biennale Arsenale. The next highlight followed immediately: A private visit to Palazzo Treves, the home of the Marchesa Barbara Belingieri. Through a friend of a friend, we and Fondation Beyeler’s director Sam Keller had the great pleasure to look at two beautiful Antonio Canova statues still at the same location they were made for. In addition to that we were shown 18th and 19th century paintings - contemporary art at the time of purchase - as the Marchesa and the beautiful art historian HRH Princess Michael of Kent explained to us. HRH Princess Michael of Kent is very much involved with Gmurzynska Gallery. Krystina Gmurzynskas daughter Isabelle Bscher is heading the contemporary section in cooperation with Count Martin Schaesberg.
Although getting tired we still visited the Rudolf Stingel exhibition at Palazzo Grassi and were revived by the sheer masses of carpet, that fill every single floor and wall of the Palazzo. Stingels apparent admiration for Tillman Riemenschneider, whose sculptures he depicts in a masterly way in his paintings, matches my own. Dinner was at the Trattoria della Madonna, where we skipped the line much to the dismay of an American collector.
The final morning was spent at the Peggy Guggenheim collection, undoubtedly one of the great collections especially of surrealism. I very much liked the exhibition of Robert Motherwell’s early collages (still on till September 9th). Jackson Pollock and Motherwell are really congenial in the development of American Abstract Expressionism. After lunch, we left for the airport.