More than 90 countries are participating at the prestigious six-month-long Biennale. The India pavilion returns after an eight-year-long hiatus to celebrate “150 years of Gandhi”.
The extraordinary pageant of contemporary art that’s been in existence since 1895 – the Venice Biennale or La Biennale di Venezia – opens its 58th edition on May 11. This year, the Biennale is expected to witness half a million spectators before its closing on November 24. Unarguably considered to be one of the world’s most intriguing art extravaganzas, the six-month-long festival will have participants from more than 90 countries and 79 additional independent artists. And the India pavilion is returning this year after an 8-year long gap to celebrate 150 Years of Gandhi with reputed artists like Atul Dodiya, GR Iranna, Jitish Kallat, Shakuntala Kulkarni and Ashim Purkayastha.
The curator of the Biennale, Ralph Rugoff, unveiled this year’s title as May You Live In Interesting Times. In an official statement, Rugoff said, “The 58th International Art Exhibition will not have a theme per se, but will highlight a general approach to making art and a view of art’s social function as embracing both pleasure and critical thinking.” The statement goes on to say, “May You Live in Interesting Times will no doubt include artworks that reflect upon precarious aspects of existence today, including different threats to key traditions, institutions and relationships of the post-war order.” The title of the Biennale makes sense, given that the philosophical phrase ‘may you live in interesting times’ has long been, according to the official website, “mistakenly cited as an ancient Chinese curse that invokes periods of uncertainty, crisis and turmoil.”
The Biennale consists of three parts; a central exhibition, national pavilions featuring multiple countries and their artists; and collateral events, which are autonomous shows tagged in the Biennale.
India, after its debut in 2011 with Ranjit Hoskote’s Everyone Agrees: It’s About To Explode is returning to the global event after an eight-year-long interval. The pavilion titled Our Time for a Future Caring is themed around Mahatma Gandhi and commemorates “150 years of Gandhi”. Seven modern and contemporary artists, including Atul Dodiya, GR Iranna, Jitish Kallat, Shakuntala Kulkarni and Ashim Purkayastha will exhibit their aesthetic perspectives on Gandhi, in parallel with works by legendary artists Nandalal Bose and Rummana Hussain. Artists Shilpa Gupta and Gauri Gill will also be arriving to be part of the exhibition at the Central Pavilion.
India has been brought back on the international art map with the Biennale through a collaborative effort between The Ministry of Culture, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, which is responsible for its curation. The Kiran Nadar Museum of Art is also India’s first private museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The project became a possibility through collaboration between these public and private institutions and was commissioned by the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA).
Including India, more than 90 countries are expected to present national pavilions at this year’s biennial festival, which surpasses the all-time record of 2017’s 86 pavilions. It will be a proud moment for Pakistan and Ghana as they both debut with their pavilions this year. Since 1907, the shows at the national pavilions are built, programmed and maintained by the visiting countries, and each participating nation selects its artists based on a personal electoral process.
A dignified international jury of curators will give out three major awards after the show’s opening — among them, a Golden Lion for the best national participation.
Venice comes to life with several unaffiliated happenings in and around the city during the international festival. Be it exhibitions at individual galleries in museums and foundations, screenings, dinners, panels or performances, these make the floating city the right place to be for culture aficionados during these six months between May 11 and November 24.
To know more about the art extravaganza, log on to their official website www.labiennale.org.
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