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Success at the Venice Biennale in 2015

Dec 09, 2015

The Venice Biennale highlights a year of success for Australian visual arts on the international stage. From showcasing one of Australia’s finest contemporary artists in Fiona Hall, to the realisation of a major architecture project in the new Australian Pavilion.

In a snapshot, the Venice Biennale saw:

  • 287,690 people visit the Australian Pavilion – the highest attendance for an Australian exhibition in Venice,
  • Fiona Hall’s exhibition Wrong Way Time be named by international press as one of the top national pavilions to visit, and
  • the first 21st Century building, the Australian Pavilion, open in the historic Venice Giardini.

One key highlight from the Biennale was the invitation for over 60 Australian artists , a record number, to present works in the curated exhibition of the 56th International Art Exhibition, All the World’s Futures, and in official collateral exhibitions throughout Venice. Australian artists represented included the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Daniel Boyd, Emily Floyd, Marco Fusinato, Newell Harry, and Sonia Leber and David Chesworth.

Collateral exhibition, Country, presented the work of 30 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists  from a number of outback areas across Australia. The exhibition was the result of Italian artist Giorgia Severi’s one-and-a-half-year stay in Australia with stop overs in art spaces throughout the continent. Country dealt with the “melting pot of different cultures throughout Australian communities”, examining the links between memory and tradition.

Image: Australian artists exhibiting at the Venice Biennale; credit: Angus Mordant.

The Biennale also saw the completion and opening of the Australian Pavilion , the first 21st Century piece of architecture to be built in the historic Giardini or Biennale gardens. The Pavilion was built from a public-private partnership , modest investment by the Australian Government leveraged the majority of the support from 80 highly committed Australian families and companies. Their support has created a larger and better suited exhibition space for Australian artists to showcase their work internationally, growing Australia’s profile in the international visual arts sector.

Architect John Denton at the Australian Pavilion. Credit: Angus Mordant.

The first artist to showcase their work in this new, larger space was Fiona Hall. Hall’s exhibition Wrong Way Time was named by international press  as one of the top pavilions to visit at the Biennale, with the exhibition bringing together thousands of elements in an exploration of the themes of “madness, badness and sadness”. Fiona Hall explains her exhibition as “a personal attempt to reconcile a state of gloom and chaos with a curiosity and affection for the place where we all live”.

Visitors to Hall’s Wrong Way Time entered a dark space where illuminated objects emerged from the shadows – painted clocks ticked and cuckooed out of time; charred cabinets were filled with collections of banknotes, newspapers and atlases; intricate hammered tin sculptures crept out of sardine cans; and sculpted bird’s nests were made of shredded banknotes.

Wrong Way Time installation view, Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015, Credit: Cristiano Corte

Wrong Way Time is now making its way back to Australia, with the full exhibition opening in April 2016 at the National Gallery of Australia . Until then you can take a virtual walk through Fiona Hall’s exhibition on the Google Cultural Institute’s interactive online showcase  of the curated exhibition and other national pavilions at this year’s Venice Biennale.

Australia on the Google Cultural Institute.