Biennale Pavilions: Dispatch from Venice

10 May 2022

The 59th edition of the Biennale is ground-breaking. Cecilia Alemani is the first woman to take the curatorial reins of the Biennale with a mission “to give voice to artists to create unique projects that reflect their visions and our society”. As a result, the Biennale, with as Surrealist-inspired theme The Milk of Dreams, has unfolded with a majority of female artists and gender non-conforming artists. Their work now takes over the Arsenale and Giardini with a wide variety of interpretations of the theme.

We strongly recommend an afternoon to take in the best this edition has to offer. Divide these equally between these key pavilions in the Arsenale and the Giardini, for a packed and satisfying half day. 

One the most impactful pavilions to see is the American pavilion, with Simone Leigh's poignant re-imagining of the Jeffersonian building by adding an African thatched roof and wooden supports. Her exhibition, titled Sovereignty, comments on the history of Black women in America and the African diaspora with sculptures that are both hyper-present yet faceless. She was rightfully honored with a Golden Lion.

Simone Leigh gave the U.S. pavilion a complete makeover, give it the appearance of a traditional African rondavel. (Courtesy Simone Leigh and Matthew Marks Gallery/Timothy Schenck)
Simone Leigh gave the U.S. pavilion a complete makeover, give it the appearance of a traditional African rondavel. (Courtesy Simone Leigh and Matthew Marks Gallery/Timothy Schenck)
Yunchul Kim: Gyre at the South Korean Pavilion Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia
Yunchul Kim: Gyre at the South Korean Pavilion Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia
The Serbia Pavilion's exhibition by Vladimir Nikolić: Walking with Water. Image by Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia.
The Serbia Pavilion's exhibition by Vladimir Nikolić: Walking with Water. Image by Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia.
Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game. Image by Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia.
Francis Alÿs: The Nature of the Game. Image by Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia.
Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way, image from the British Pavilion by Marco Cappelletti. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia
Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way, image from the British Pavilion by Marco Cappelletti. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia
Zineb Sedira's 'Dreams have no titles' at the French Pavilion, image by Marco Cappelletti Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia
Zineb Sedira's 'Dreams have no titles' at the French Pavilion, image by Marco Cappelletti Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Another Golden Lion winner is Sonia Boyce OBE, whose work for the British pavilion, titled Feeling Her Way, explores the potential of collaborative play as a route to innovation. The exhibition honors the contributions of Black British female musicians to transnational culture through video works featuring five Black female musicians.

The long line at the Belgian pavilion gave it away: this one is a must-see. Francis Alÿs's The Nature of the Game presents a selection of videos that capture children playing in public spaces. Linked to those depicted in a 17th century painting Children’s Games by Breughel. Together with Alÿs' paintings, the exhibition is a way to try to understand the culture and the patterns by which people live and the socio-political dimension of children's play.

Other Cultivist tips: Yunchul Kim: Gyre at the South Korean pavilion, the Serbia pavilion's exhibition by Vladimir Nikolić: Walking with Water and Zineb Sedira: Dreams have no titles at the French pavilion. The Venice Biennale runs until November 27 of 2022, so there's still plenty of time to plan your visit and take it all in.