The 58th Venice Art Biennale: ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’

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Friedhelm Mennekes, SJ

 Friedhelm Mennekes, SJ / Issue 1912 / 4 December 2019

The slogan chosen for the 58th Venice Art Biennale lends itself to a kind of self-service interpretation, which is the exact opposite of what art means: “May you live in interesting times.” Once more we are talking about art and its role in understanding and facing practically the reality of this world and human life in all its complexity. This year the art in Venice is again organized on three levels: the central exhibition, the national pavilions, and the many additional exhibitions around the city.

The central exhibition in the Giardini and the Arsenale

The director of the 2019 Biennale is a well-known American, 63-year-old Ralph Rugoff, for many years director of the successful Hayward Gallery in London. Rugoff has had an impressive career as a curator of important art institutions. A specialist in semiotics, he is open to the symbolism of art, in particular in forms that engage and entertain with multiple perspectives. He does not focus on marginal themes, on politics, or the latest fashionable trends, nor does he focus on populist advertising. Rugoff only cares about art as such. From the methodological point of view, his is not a linear and stringent pattern of thought, but he always keeps alive an interest in contrasts, simultaneously thinking openly of alternative ideas. For him, art makes possible a complex understanding of the world.

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