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Sean Scully, Opulent Ascension, 2019 Felt on wood 10.4 x 3.6 x 3.6 m

Sean Scully, “HUMAN“, Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice,

8 May – 13 October 2019. © Sean Scully. Courtesy the Artist and KEWENIG, Berlin. Photograph: Deanna Sirlin

Dear Readers


The Art Section has been covering the Venice Biennale since our second issue in 2007; we continue this tradition with the current issue. There have always been significant moments at Venice Biennales, artists presented that are acknowledged internationally and have important voices. In Venice at a Biennale was the first time I saw a Pipilotti Rist video, Marina Abramović performing in the basement of the Italian Pavilion amongst bloody bones and flies, and the paintings of Luc Tuymans in the Belgian Pavilion. The Biennale changes every two years along with the times and the curator. This Biennale was curated by Ralph Rugoff, who has titled the exhibition with the fake curse, May You Live in Interesting Times.


In her article “Engaging Choreographies,” Floriana Piqué looks at the presentation of dance as a video spectacle and vehicle at the Swiss, Brazilian, Russian, and Austrian Pavilions. Is the documentation of these dance works a new art form?  Have the works been recontextualized by the Biennale and the artists?


Andrew Alexander writes on Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama. Kusama, in response to not being invited to represent her work for Japan at the Biennale in 1966, decided to take action. She obtained permission to place 1500 metallic/plastic balls on a lawn near the Italian Pavilion and posted two signs that stated, "Narcissus Garden, Kusama" and "Your Narcissism for Sale." Wearing a gold kimono, Kusama stood in her installation and sold the balls to patrons for the equivalent of $2.00 each until the Biennale stopped her from doing so on the grounds that her “peddling” of art on the street was unseemly.  I suppose she has had the last laugh, as this installation has been recreated all over the world and her spheres have increased greatly in value. Here Alexander gives us his reading of this artist’s writing about her life and career.

Daniele Frison has created a video titled Vernissage of the opening days of the Venice Biennale 58. In addition to documenting multiple pavilions, his video and text reflect on the relationship between the artworks and the audience. Please note in his text the interesting play on words between "mostra" (the Italian word for exhibition) and "monster" is quite wonderful.   


The first Biennale I attended as an art writer was in 1997; Art Papers Magazine asked me to write about painter Robert Colescott who was representing the United States. It is painting in its many forms and guises that interested me then and now and is the focus of my essay in this issue. There is much great painting in this Biennale, which is unusual. Perhaps Rugoff's curse is that painting is interesting to many again.


Many thanks,


Deanna Sirlin 


The Art Section


Deanna Sirlin is an artist and writer from Brooklyn, New York currently living and working outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

I am sorry to hear that  Tony DeLap (1927- 2019) has passed. Please revisit Peter Frank's excellent text published by The Art Section.

DeLap 3.JPG
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