Hyundai Meets_Venice Biennale: Review

The first project of “Hyundai Meets_”, Venice Biennale
A week in the Venetian Lagoon

Venice Biennale

Venice Art Biennale 2015

The 56th Venice Biennale, the world's greatest art festival, embarked on its six-month voyage to "All the World's Futures" on May 9. Hyundai Motor visited the Biennale, where diverse languages and cultures coexist under the banner of art.

Most of the contemporary art world’s leading figures could be spotted as part of the formal exhibition, presenting at the national pavilions, and simply viewing the art on display. Hyundai Motor brings you a vibrant peek into the scene, as we spoke with some of the top artists, curators and directors.

At the Beinnale

Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale is brought to you as part of the “Hyundai Meets” Project. Hyundai Motor firmly believes that automobiles are not only an eclectic product of technology, design and a profound understanding of people, but a form of composite art. The “Hyundai Meets” Project was planned with an ambition for both theoretical and practical insight from prominent figures across diverse fields in the culture and arts, an area that shares growth and partnership with Hyundai Motor. What better place to start than at the world's greatest art event, the Venice Biennale?

Venice Biennale

The “Hyundai Meets_Venice Biennale” team arrived on the Venetian Lagoon on May 4, two days before vernissage opened on May 6. Emphasizing the imminent opening of the Biennale, we noticed posters announcing special exhibitions and national pavilions immediately upon arriving at the Venice Marco Polo Airport. It served as a reminder that we were, indeed, at the very center of the world's contemporary art scene. Art-industry figures looked quite settled in, seated on chairs and stools at roadside eateries, engaged in animated discussions about the upcoming event. On the eve of the press open, everyone gathered by twos and threes at plazas and cafes, while those in the exhibition spaces were burning the midnight oil to make final preparations to receive guests. On the morning of, journalists from around the world could be seen bustling about, awaiting the 10 am unveiling of the Venice Biennale. The procession gathered from across the city to swarm the entrance of the Arsenale for the opening of the main exhibition.

Venice Biennale

For the VIP preview the next day, the shore was filled with horns sounding off from the magnificent yachts looking for a berth facing the Biennale’s exhibition halls. On the first evening of the 2015 Venice Biennale, the streets were alive with sharp-looking formal black suits and glamorous evening dresses. Everyone had a place to be; an exciting evening awaited everyone, with special events at national pavilions, special exhibitions and collateral events. Nearby plazas were packed with party-goers moving to the throbbing and ebbing of DJs' mixing on the turntable. Then at the Awards Ceremony of the 56th International Art Exhibition on May 9, the official public open, “Hyundai Meets_Venice Biennale” was there to witness the presenting of the Golden Lion and other awards by the International Jury.

The formal exhibition vs. the national pavilions

Venice Biennale

Why don't we take a closer look at this year's Biennale? Okwui Enwezor, the director of the Biennale this year, pulled all stops in planning the main exhibition at the Arsenale venue. It was an effort made apparent from the very entrance, where visually striking works are exhibited. American artist Bruce Nauman's neon sign flickers between spelling “DEATH” and “EAT,” paired with Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed's Nymphéas (Water Lilies), which are clusters of steel blades and swords planted into the floor like sprouting bouquets. Argentinian artist Eduardo Basualdo's work Amenaza (meaning “threat”) presents a strange optical illusion of a blade. Iraqi artist Hiwa K's The Bell is a bell made from metal collected from weapons and a video that presents a sense of catharsis with the resounding peal of the bell. The exhibition itself is quite an eclectic collection that can be described through such keywords as disorder, conflict, instability and collapse.

All 136 artists from 53 countries featured at the main exhibition were chosen by Enwezor himself. Leading up to the Biennale, Enwezor had personally visited each country to talk to the artists and share his vision of the exhibition. All the commitment and enthusiasm he poured into the exhibition can be seen.

Venice Biennale

The first foreign pavilion was that of Belgium, built in 1907. Countries who hold a pavilion in the Giardini are able to exhibit in this historically meaningful garden. The pavilions are each designed by architects of their respective country, with the Korean Pavilion opened in 1995. Exhibitions in the national pavilions present a spectrum of contemporary art distinct from that of the main exhibition. A total of 89 nations took part in the 56th Venice Biennale. Among them, 29 were hosted in the Giardini, five in the Arsenale (including the Italian Pavilion), and the remaining showing in venues across Venice.

Venice Biennale

Covering about 50,000 square meters of sprawling parkland, the Giardini was rich with green shade, chirping birds and, for this occasion, the excited movement of journalists, and representatives from museums and galleries all around the world. Some exhibition venues even limited the number of visitors at a given time, resulting in some long waiting lines at the entrances. The lines for video exhibitions were particularly slow-moving, much to the distress of the visitors. Starting with the press open, national pavilions began opening one by one, and by May 9 when the Golden Lion and the Silver Lion were awarded, followed by various performances and events, the Biennale already appeared to running at full steam. The Korean Pavilion held its opening ceremony on May 6, presenting a completely original shade of contemporary art.

Navigating the maze-like canals to the national pavilions located across Venice became a sort of art treasure hunt. The sun set slowly over the glistening waters as visitors went in search of more art, while others stayed near Piazza San Marco to join in on headed discussions about the exhibitions they had seen. No matter the activity, the Biennale continued through the night until the sun rose in the east, opening the day to art aficionados steadily standing in line to be the first inside the exhibition halls. Venice truly is a city ablaze for contemporary art and it seems it won't be cooling off any time soon. ■ with ARTINPOST

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