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55th International Art Exhibition - The Encyclopedic Palace

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Curator: Massimiliano Gioni
03 | 13 | 2013

1st June to 24th November 2012

The 55th International Art Exhibition titled Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), curated by Massimiliano Gioni and organized by la Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta, is opening to the public from Saturday 1st June to Sunday 24th November 2013 at the Giardini and at the Arsenale. The preview will be held on 29th, 30th and 31st May. The award ceremony and the inauguration will take place on Saturday 1st June.
 
88 National Participations will be exhibiting in the historical Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the city of Venice. Among these 10 countries are participating in the Exhibition for the first time: Angola, Bahamas, Kingdom of Bahrain, Ivory Coast, Republic of Kosovo, Kuwait, Maldives, Paraguay, Tuvalu and the Holy See.
The novelty is the participation of the Holy See with an exhibition held at the Sale d'Armi, an area which is being restored by la Biennale and converted into permanent pavilions. This year the Italian Pavilion at the Arsenale - organized by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, with PaBAAC (General Direction for the Landscape, Fine Arts, Architecture and Contemporary Art) - is curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi.
 
The Exhibition Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace) will be laid out in the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale forming a single itinerary, with works spanning over the past century alongside several new commissions, including over 150 artists coming form 37 countries.
 
“Over the years – the President Paolo Baratta explains– in representing the contemporary, our curators have developed an insight of how important it is to place artists in a historical perspective or in a context of mutual affinities, by highlighting ties and relations both with the past and with other artists of the present. At the same time, in contrast with the avant-garde period, attention has increasingly focused on the intensity of the relationship between the work of art and the viewer who, though shaken by artistic gestures and provocations, ultimately seeks in art the emotion of dialoguing with the work, which should cause that hermeneutical tension, that desire to go beyond what is expected from art.”
 
“The next Biennale – Baratta adds - is taking a decisive step in this direction, and will give life to a great exhibition-research. With Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), Massimiliano Gioni, much more than presenting us with a list of contemporary artists, wishes to reflect on their creative urges and seems to push the question even further: what is the artists' world? The prospective interest goes so far as to search for relations with different worlds; thus the exhibition will present works by contemporary artists, but also works from the past, different references, works that do not claim to be works of art, but which are part of the stimuli to imagine and dream beyond reality, dream another reality. That is, the visions that in the classical period helped arouse the artists’ "aspirations”, and in modern times are the obsessions of the same; and to give tangible form to both, down to the present time when there is a real reversal. Today, Gioni seems to be saying, it is ordinary reality that lays on a lavishly decked table, a plethora of images and visions for everyday use; they all strike us though we are not able to escape them, and the artist should, if anything, pass through them unharmed, as Moses did in the Red Sea.”
 
The Exhibition draws inspiration from the model of a utopian dream by Marino Auriti who filed a design with the U.S. Patent office in 1955, depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge. Auriti planned the model of a 136-story building to be built in Washington, in that would stand 700 meters tall and take up over 16 blocks.
“Auriti’s plan was never carried out, of course – Massimiliano Gioni says - but the dream of universal, all-embracing knowledge crops up throughout the history of art and humanity, as one that eccentrics like Auriti share with many other artists, writers, scientists, and self-proclaimed prophets who have tried—often in vain—to fashion an image of the world that will capture its infinite variety and richness. Today, as we grapple with a constant flood of information, such attempts to structure knowledge into all-inclusive systems seem even more necessary and even more desperate.”
 
“Blurring the line between professional artists and amateurs, outsiders and insiders, the exhibition takes an anthropological approach to the study of images, focusing in particular on the realms of the imaginary and the functions of the imagination. What room is left for internal images—for dreams, hallucinations and visions—in an era besieged by external ones? And what is the point of creating an image of the world when the world itself has become increasingly like an image?”
 
Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace) is a show about obsessions and about the transformative power of the imagination; the exhibition opens in the Central Pavilion with a presentation of Carl Gustav Jungs Red Book” – Gioni continues. “In the vast halls of the Arsenale the exhibition is organized as a progression from natural to artificial forms, following the typical layout of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century cabinets of curiosities. Just like Auriti’s Palace, these baroque proto-museums brought together man-made and natural wonders to construct visual compendia of the world through a science of elective affinities and magical sympathies. This associative process of knowledge, through its heterogeneous ordering of objects and images, draws interesting parallels between the wunderkammer and today’s culture of hyper-connectivity.”
Through the many examples of artworks and figurative expressions on view, including films, photographs, videos, bestiaries, labyrinths, performances and installations, “The Encyclopedic Palace emerges as an elaborate but fragile construction, a mental architecture that is as fantastical as it is delirious. After all – says Gioni – the biennale model itself is based on the impossible desire to concentrate the infinite worlds of contemporary art in a single place: a task that now seems as dizzyingly absurd as Auriti’s dream.”
 
“In that sense - Baratta reflects - the curator develops his reflection on the fate of contemporary art and artists, who do not settle for limited horizons when they imagine, but conceive global realities, driven by aspirations for a comprehensive knowledge and sensibility. And I cannot help recalling Harald Szeemann's ‘obsessions’ and the concept of failure that followed. Fertile failures for art, as Gioni says, it is a question for the artist of a powerful and all-encompassing motive.Within la Biennale, the idea of an exhibition-study is considered profitable not only for the Art section but also for the Architecture. For this reason, the Exhibitions of Gioni and Koolhaas (Biennale Architettura 2014) represent important moments in the history of our Institution.”
 
Biennale Sessions, a project for Universities
The project Biennale Sessions is taking place again for the fourth year, after the extraordinary success of the previous years. This initiative is offered by la Biennale di Venezia to institutions developing research and training in the field of arts and the alike, to Universities and Academies of Fine Arts. La Biennale aims at providing them with favourable conditions for a three-day visit for groups of at least 50 people comprising students and teachers, reduced price meals, the possibility to organize seminars at the Exhibition’s venues – free of charge, and assistance in organizing their journey and stay.
 
Meetings on Art
Moreover la Biennale is organizing a program of Meetings on Art, among which a series of conversations with Marco Paolini, titled Fen, during the summer months and four events during autumn on the topics of the myth of the self-taught artists, Existence is elsewhere;on the anthropology of images and history of art, Image-Worlds; on the Encyclopedias and other flights of the imagination, Nothing is sweeter than knowing everything. The last meeting, Let’s talk about us, is scheduled for 24th November 2013, on the closing day of the 55th International Art Exhibition.
Concerning these two projects of la Biennale, President Paolo Baratta states: “We would like the visit to la Biennale to be included in the curricular activities, and la Biennale to be considered a site for research where people can observe, reflect and carry out projects.”
 
Also for 2013 the Educational activities will be organised addressing individuals and groups of students of all grades, universities and academies of fine arts, as well as professionals, companies, experts, fans and families. These initiatives, conducted by selected staff trained by la Biennale di Venezia, are aimed at actively involving participants in both Educational Itineraries and Laboratories and creative workshops.
 
Catalogue and short guide
The 55th Exhibition catalogue contains reproductions of the artworks, profiles of the participating artists, and a special section of essays coordinated by Sina Najafi and Jeffrey Kastner in which art historians, philosophers, academics, and writers discuss various forms of obsession, systems of information, adventures in knowledge, and other journeys of the imagination. A detailed, comprehensive, and wieldy guide to the Exhibition will be published featuringshort monographic texts of all the invited artists to the 55th Exhibition: the guide includes over 150 entries and articles on all the featured artists, along with useful information about all the National Pavilions and Collateral events. Both editorial products are realized by Marsilio Editori.
 
The 55th International Art Exhibition is realized thanks to Swatch, partner of the event, ENEL, main sponsor, and Japan Tobacco International, Vela-Hello Venezia, and illycaffè. Thanks also to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Gi Group.
 
Our thanks to the Ministry of Culture, which at a difficult time for public finances is maintaining its decisive support, the local institutions that in various ways support la Biennale, the City of Venice and the Regione del Veneto. We extend out thanks to the authorities that are in various ways involved and concerned with the buildings where the Exhibition is held, from the Marina Militare to the Venice Soprintendenze.

Thanks to Massimiliano Gioni's team and the Biennale's staff for making the Exhibition possible. We would also like to thank our several Donors, who have been particularly important in the realization of the 55th Exhibition.