When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

LA STAMPA

“Dubious Display” Of Contemporary Art Stars Opens In Venice

Red-hot contemporary sculptor Jeff Koons among 19 artists featured in Italian museum’s latest exhibition, which runs through Dec. 31, 2012.

<--break->Koons' Hanging Heart features prominently in Venice exhibition
<--break->Koons' Hanging Heart features prominently in Venice exhibition
Rocco Moliterni

VENICE - With has short hair, grey suit and tie, Jeff Koons could be mistaken for a Wall Street trader. Indeed that's what he was before becoming an internationally-renowned artist. Watching him pose for a picture below his giant Hanging Heart sculpture – which sold at an auction in 2007 for a record $23 million, and now dominates the last room in Venice's Punta della Dogana Museum – it's easy, in fact, to doubt whether Koons really is an artist.

Having doubts here is normal. Indeed, the museum's curator, Caroline Bourgeois, titled the current exhibition "In Praise of Doubt." The display opened April 10 and features pieces from French fashion tycoon François Pinault's permanent collection.

The exhibition at Punta della Dogana Museum, which was brilliantly designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, displays the works of 19 artists from the last 50 years. Among the doubts it raises is whether artists from several decades ago were better able to question art and the wider world than their contemporary heirs.

An example is Ed Kienholz's Roxys, designed in the 1960s. The artwork reenacts a brothel for soldiers during World War II. In more recent work, it is almost impossible to find this same uneasiness and torment, combined with a fierce criticism of machismo and war. The post-surrealist Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers grapples with the theme of war too. His Décor (1975) is a comparison of conflicts from different ages. Broodthaers combines cannons, rifles, an ironic sun umbrella, and a puzzle of the Battle of Waterloo.

A piece by the octogenarian Elaine Sturtevant consists of a room with a vault made of jute bags over many reproductions of artwork by Marcel Duchamp. Her take on the dadaist and surrealist master is more articulate than a similarly themed piece by India's Subodh Gupta, whose Et tu Duchamp is just a black bronze sculpture of a bearded Mona Lisa. Still, Gupta's sculpture, which consists of pots and spoons, at least encompasses a certain depth that is noticeably lacking in the pots and spoons Jeff Koons has hanging form a child's lifejacket in one of his works.

Bruce Nauman's video Clown Torture, created in the 1980s, still makes an impact, as does a room dedicated to Donald Judd, a big name in1960s minimalism. Roni Horn's piece Well and Truly conveys a similar sense of gravity, though it is even more esoteric than the Judd exhibition.

Maurizio Cattelan's All (2008) is always upsetting. The line of corpses covered by marble blankets is all too reminiscent of the bodies of the migrants who drowned when a boat carrying them to Europe capsized last week south of Sicily. Blankets also play a key role in Thomas Schütte's Efficiency Men (2005), which features a disturbing parade of cloaked monsters. Another of Schütte's sculptures, Vater Staat, dominates the square opposite the nearby Chiesa della Salute.

The exhibition has its letdowns. Work by young artist Adel Abdessemed, so promising in past shows, here seems dull. Two years ago, in Turin, Abdessemed exhibited some very strong videos. Here his Taxidermy consists of the hearts of stuffed animals, and his sign Grève mondiale uses a neon light just for the sake of it. Thomas Houseago is another example. His sculptures were monumental in 2009, at the Belgian exhibition Beaufort03, and in 2010, at the fair Art Basel Miami Beach. In this exhibitoin they are simply lacking.

In the end, one is left with a lingering doubt about whether it is possible to combine the needs of a themed exhibition and the needs of a permanent collection as opulent and impressive as François Pinault's.

Read the original article in Italian.

Photo - Achimh

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Geopolitics

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023

Before heading to South Sudan to continue his highly anticipated trip to Africa, the pontiff was in the Democratic Republic of Congo where he delivered a powerful speech, in a country where 40 million Catholics live.

Minerals And Violence: A Papal Condemnation Of African Exploitation, Circa 2023
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — You may know the famous Joseph Stalin quote: “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” Pope Francis still has no military divisions to his name, but he uses his voice, and he does so wisely — sometimes speaking up when no one else would dare.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Belgian Congo, a region plundered and martyred, before and after its independence in 1960), Francis has chosen to speak loudly. Congo is a country with 110 million inhabitants, immensely rich in minerals, but populated by poor people and victims of brutal wars.

That land is essential to the planetary ecosystem, and yet for too long, the world has not seen it for its true value.

The words of this 86-year-old pope, who now moves around in a wheelchair, deserve our attention. He undoubtedly said what a billion Africans are thinking: "Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: It is not a mine to be stripped or a terrain to be plundered!"

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest