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The 1990s

Future Dimension was the title of the International Art Exhibition in 1990, directed by Giovanni Carandente. The main exhibition set up in the Italian Pavilion, entitled Ambiente Berlin, was comprised of a vast collection of artists of a variety of nationalities that had worked in the German metropolis over recent decades. Emilio Vedova’s works (plurimi) of the Absurder Tagebuch cycle (1964) were particularly prominent at the beginning of the exhibition. A retrospective in Homage to Eduardo Chillida, the great Spanish sculptor who was awarded the Grand Prize in 1958, was set up in Ca’ Pesaro. Achille Bonito Oliva set up a special exhibition entitled Ubi Fluxus ibi Motus on the island of the Giudecca. Robert Rauschenberg, who had introduced Pop Art to Europe in 1964, exhibited one work in the Soviet Pavilion receiving much attention.
 
The Aperto section in the Arsenale Corderie was the cause of much attention and polemics. Members of the ecclesiastical community protested against the piece by the American group Grand Fury which addressed the subject of AIDS, whilst environmentalists opposed to an art work which involved live ants. The exhibition was temporarily closed due to tests carried out on Damien Hirst’s piece, a plexiglass box containing a dead cow. The formaldehyde solution, which was used to preserve the cow carcass, started to leak from its container.
 
The American artist Jeff Koons created life-size polychrome sculptures representing himself and his wife Ilona Staller. The Golden Lion for sculpture was awarded to Bernd and Hill Becher’s large format photographs of industrial archaeology, whilst Giovanni Anselmo’s work was presented the prize for painting. The American pavilion hosted Jenny Holzer’s evocative electronic writings and statements, which received the award for best national participation. The British sculptor Anish Kapoor received the Prize 2000 for young artist.
 
The 1993 edition curated by Achille Bonito Oliva was a great international and interdisciplanary overview. It included participation by 45 nations, featuring homage exhibitions dedicated to Francis Bacon, John Cage, and Peter Greenaway. The 45th edition was postponed until 1993 in order to make the next edition coincide with the centenary of the Biennale. Cardinal Points of the Arts was the title of this edition which was articulated in a series of 15 exhibitions. The exhibition at the Museo Correr designed by David Sylvester, featuring the works of Bacon (who had died the year before) was of particular significance. The floor surface of the German Pavilion had been broken up by artist Hans Haake, forcing the visitor to walk on the “debris of a nation”. The pavilion won the prize for best national participation. Similarly, the artist Ilja Kabakov transformed the Russian Pavilion into a kind of abandoned place filled with discarded material. 
 
In 1995 the exhibition was entrusted to a non-Italian director for the first time, namely the Frenchman Jean Clair, who had set up a large exhibition on the theme of the face and the human body in the Palazzo Grassi. The exhibition, entitled Identity and Alterity, paid homage to the masters of the 20th Century, with works from some of the most important museums in the world. In its centenary year, the Biennale promoted events for each sector of activity.
 
The 47th edition of 1997 Future, Present, and Past, curated by Germano Celant was an ideal reunion of three generations of artists from 1967 to 1997. The exhibition hosted 58 nations, and Golden Lions were awarded to Marina Abramovic and Gerard Richter.
 
In 1999, the Biennale initiated a large-scale renovation project on the historic naval buildings of the Arsenale in Venice (Artiglierie, Corderie, Gaggiandre, and Tese) transforming them into commanding exhibition spaces. The main international exhibition, previously confined to the limited spaces of the Italian Pavilion, could thus be laid out with greater ease. Both the 1999 and the 2001 editions were directed by Harald Szeemann, the former being entitled dAPERTutto (APERTO over ALL) the latter, Plateau of Humankind.