Biennales | Paris-Venice

December 9, 2017

by Andreea Belba

A frenetic September in shades of yellow and titian heralded Paris and Venice Biennales, romantic and cultural destinations for worldwide art-lovers avid of artistic beauty.


The Paris Biennale, a pinnacle of the “Art de vivre à la française”, went through a complete metamorphosis in terms of name, president, and momentum, meeting the expectations of the most exigent collectors with its dynamic and radiant configuration. Morphing into an evanescent and elegant venue of fine arts, antique furniture, sculptures and jewellery the biennale mesmerized the audience with a surplus of novelty ingrained by its three identical sidewalks reflecting impartiality and plasticity. From 11 to 17 September 2017, the Grand Palais hosted 95 galleries with 36 international exhibitors with Barbier-Mueller and Giada Ripa exhibitions as special guests. The two-yearly biennale acted as an art promoter that disclosed the mundane reality by limiting the artists exclusiveness and rejecting formal rigors. Among the most notable galleries were Hélène Bailly Gallery featuring Pablo Picasso’s “Anthropomorphic Landscape”,Chevalier Gallery with gold woven tapestries, Kevorkian Gallery remarkable for its ancient marble female statuette, Delvaille Gallery showing the impressionistic painting “Le Vaudreuil en été”Mullany or Sycomore Ancient Art with bronze or marble beauties. If Boghossian, Bernard Bouissetand Pautot-Sugères exposed jewellery, galleries like Aktis, Opera, Pedro Aguiar Branco, Ary Jan, Bacquart, Perrin Antiquaires, Boon, Fleury, Whitford Fine Art, Robilant & Voena etc. opened up new perspectives.

Pablo Picasso’s exhibit was one of the most ravishing on sale at Hélène Bailly Gallery. Created in 1963, the piece showing the hidden portrait of a man was unique in the painters production. Alternatively, Kevorkian Gallery showcased a 13 cm-high alabaster statuette from Anatolia, an effigy of a protective “goddess mother” indicative of fertility that probably belonged to the 4th-5th millennium B.C.


The prodigious collection Barbier-Mueller exhibited on 220 m² more than 130 art objects collected from generation to generation since the beginning of the 20th century when Josef Mueller started purchasing works signed by Picasso, Cézanne and Hodler. It was the most impressive collection of African, Asian and Oceanic art objects valorized by “Les Collections Barbier-Mueller, 110 ans de passion,” a book published by Editions Glénat. Echoing this spirit of renewal, the Barbier-Mueller exhibition was displayed in two large rooms located at each end of the Nave to encourage circulation throughout the space.

Another synergetic initiative was the partnership between Paris Biennale and Chantilly Arts and Elegance Richard Mille. By displaying historical car collections, haute couture creations, automobile clubs and the French Art of Living, the two events shared common values and the same public.

The Downtown gallery paid homage to the art of Le Corbusier whose particular scenography defined a polychrome wood sculpture entitled Ozon Opus I, after the village where the artist had taken refuge in 1940. Concurrently, Gallery Art Cuellar-Nathan exhibited a marvelous watercolour piece entitled “Explosion”, evaluated at Euros 800,000.

Still hypnotized by the glittering mirage of the fabulous Paris Biennale and craving for another artistic escapade, visitors continued their periplus to Venice, a unique and vibrant must-attend place full of inspiration, nostalgia and time value.

The Venice Biennale “Viva Arte Viva” unveils as the largest contemporary art show that paints new colour shades upon a city that is looking forward to the future. Opened in November 2017 in the Arsenale, the Giardini and the city center, the Biennale with 120 participants from 51 countries out of which Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, and Nigeria are newcomers attracts visitors from five continents.

The exhibition seems an introversive journey in an extroversive space conveying positive energy through its nine trans-pavilions conceived as chapters of the same book. The digressive story that reflects the worlds intricacies starts with the “Pavilion of Artists and Books” and ends up with the “Pavilion of Time and Infinity”, a reflect upon transience and repetition. “Viva Arte Viva” is a fervent overreaction for art and artists state “designed with artists, by artists and for artists,” as curator Christine Macel states.

The Venice Biennale is also special for its weekly “Open Table” where artists share impressions with visitors, for the project “Unpacking My Library” that enables the artists to create a list of their preferred books, and for “Educational activities” dedicated to students in schools or universities or to professionals in various fields of activity.


Moreover, The Venice Biennale partnered with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London on the Pavilion of Applied Arts, and Swatch getting support from many sponsors: Artemide, JTI (Japan Tobacco International), Vela-Venezia Unica, Bloomberg Philanthropies, COIMA, i-AMFoundation and Trenitalia Gruppo Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.

As for prizes, Germany was awarded the Golden Lion for the Best National Participation for an inventive installation that formulated crucial questions about our time provoking visitors discomfort. The amazing installation by Anne Imhof called “Faust” was the quintessence of an absolute work of art with graceful performance in a spectacular setting: fierce Dobermans behind a metal fence, glass platform and walls hid the feeling of alienation rotting our contemporary society. Brazil got a special mention as National Participation for an installation that created a mysterious insecure space. Franz Erhard Walther was awarded the Golden Lion for the Best Artist of “Viva Arte Viva Exhibition,” whose work combined shapes, colours, fabrics, and performances. The Silver Lion for a Promising Young Artist was conferred to Hassan Kahn whose work established an intricate and profound relationship with the audience. Two Special Mentions were awarded to Charles Atlas, for two splendid videos that connected natural and artificial beauty to words, and Petrit Halilaj whose interventions in the structure of the Arsenale and Central Pavilion linked the history of Kosovo to childhood memories.


“Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable Damien Hirst” is an exquisite solo exhibition consecrated to the artist that reflects belief and truth about an imaginary past. Covering a surface of 5,000 m2, it tells the story of the Unbelievable, an ancient vessel that shipwrecked 2,000 years ago. What remained of the wreck was the amazing collection of Aulus Calidius Amotan devoted to a temple of the sun that Hirst showcased in two venues: marble, gold and bronze, crystal, jade and malachite artifacts but also heroes, gods, beasts, and mythic figures brought to the surface from the Indian Ocean.

The South Korea’s Pavilion gives a deep insight into the concept of modern national identity inspired by Cody Chois and Lee Wans works that investigate the friction between its changing identity and the growing influence of the West. Their exhibition “Counterbalance: The Stone and the Mountain” emphasizes the upheaval sensed by the two artists in the Korean identity, comprising works that purify the human experience. As a response to this impact, Choi made his parodic sculpture “The Thinker”, a reinterpretation of Rodins sculpture created from toilet paper and Pepto-Bismol, the pink American stomach medicine underlying the artists confusion to assimilate Western philosophy. Chois work has also consisted of a new piece, “Venetian Rhapsody”, especially designed for this Biennale, a kaleidoscopic intermingling of neon signage mounted on the façade of the venue. In his turn, Lee Wan has scrutinized the hidden life of people affronted by global power structures. Venice Biennale exhibits his work entitled “Proper Time: Though the Dreams Revolve with the Moon”, an installation of 668 clocks having engraved name, birthdate, nationality, and profession of those individuals met and interviewed by the artist while analyzing the various economic context of the working people worldwide.


Every two years, Paris and Venice transfigure into resplendent art carousels to reflect two sensational Biennales, prestigious cultural events focused on international art that convey a single subtle message that art is eternal.

For Ms. Macel, the chief curator of the Pompidou Center in Paris, the 57th Biennale was seen as “an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist.” She added that it is “a Biennale designed with artists, by artists and for artists.” This Biennale curator decided to turn away from the fiery political climate and focus on art for art’s sake? Ms. Macel said, “I’m very interested in politics,” she said, walking through the Biennale gardens here. “But not all art should be about politics. It’s only one dimension.” I hope you enjoyed finding out more about the Art Biennale that took place in Venice and Paris this year.