May You Live in Interesting Times is the title of the 2019 Venice Art Biennale, one of the most important contemporary art exhibitions in the world, held every two years. This year’s edition, the 58th, is curated by the American Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery in London. It opened on May 11 and will continue until November 24.
The title, an English expression for long wrongly thought to be an ancient Chinese curse, evokes periods of uncertainty, crisis and unrest: the ‘interesting times’ in which we are living. The common thread is an invitation to face the present: the tragedies of migrants, new inequalities, climate change, racism, the violence of some countries’ regimes; and to use creativity as an antidote to conformism.
New aspects of the Biennale include a decrease in the number of participating artists (120 in 2017, 79 this year) and countries (38 instead of 51); for the first time, half of the artists are women and are under 40; almost all the works were made after 2010 and many have never been exhibited before.
As for every edition, there are two exhibition sites: the Giardini and the Arsenale. The Giardini, which were the site of the first Biennale in 1895, host the Central Pavilion curated by Rugoff and the 29 oldest pavilions, such as the U.K., France and Germany. In the Arsenale, which has an exhibition space of 50,000 square meters, there are other international pavilions, part of the international exhibition curated by Rugoff and the Italian Pavilion.
There are also 21 collateral exhibitions hosted in churches, palaces, convents and warehouses, as well as several other events that are not part of the Biennale, but have been organized for the occasion, including the Fornasetti installation at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi and the exhibition by Dior photographer Brigitte Niedermair at Palazzo Mocenigo.
The international exhibition curated by Rugoff is divided into two parts: Proposition A, in the Arsenale, and Proposition B, in the Central Pavilion. Each emphasizes different aspects; the Arsenale features larger and more monumental works. Many artists are present in both.
The international exhibition is accompanied by the pavilions curated by each individual country, 90 in all.
For more information, visit the Biennale website: https://www.labiennale.org/en/art/2019/58th-exhibition