Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go — Truman Capote

In less than a week, I will be eating that box of chocolate liqueurs as I overindulge myself in contemporary art the 54th Venice Biennale di arte contemporanea.  For many, Venice is a dream, for a few, the Biennale is a fantasy, and for me, the 54th Biennale will be my favorite dèja-vu.  In 1999, I was invited by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to work at the American Pavillion at the 48th  Biennale.  For those who don’t know what the Biennale is– every two-years, the islands of Venice are coated in contemporary art, where artists are unleashed on to the public and ‘discovered’, and more recently established artists simply show off.  Traditionally, the Biennale Gardens host the fest, dotted with early 1900s pavillions representing countries through almost stereotypical architecture like Russia, France and the USA.  Over the decades, the biennale has expanded to include the entire city and during its opening week Venice plays host to the Art World, capital A, capital W.

My biennale experience was meditative, spending hours in Ann Hamilton’s Myein installation in the American Pavillion and the entire 48th Biennale was electrifying– floating carpets by Pippilotti Rist, an arsenale full of installations and videos, Howard Szeemann’s mind-blowing D’apertutto at the Italian pavillion (whose black rats I will never forget), and the new pavillions from newish countries.    Though I did not go to any of the famous arty parties where MiuMiu and Martin Margiela seem to be the required dress code (my reign in Venice was dedicated strictly September to its December close), I did see every exhibition and hear every murmur of contemporary art, living full-time in the paradox of old Venice and cutting-edge.

This year’s Biennale could overshadow the 48th:  89 countries have pavilions, including first timers Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Malaysia and  Andorra.  And even better, the US is represented by Guillermo Calzadilla and Jennifer Allora of Philadelphia- be still my beating heart.

Here are some Friday night Roman stuzzichini to go with next week’s spritz al aperol:

(i.e. a listing some arty things to do on Friday night in Rome and in advance of the Biennale)

  • This is a bit belated but must be noted: American Academy in Rome, on Wednesday night while high on the Gianicolo,  I had the pleasure of peaking into Chuck Close’s studio [scroll back up if you want a peak too, that’s his studio] and a quick chat with South African artist William Kentridge.  Though the AAR’s Open Studios evening has finished, Friday and Saturday night, the Academy hosts its Fellows reading and concert.
  • Kentridge steps off the Gianicolo and into the MAXXI for Friday night’s 1st anniversary celebration, 7pm.
  • Never failing to remind us that Rome isn’t ancient history is Gagosian’s Made in Italy, through July 29. 6pm.
  • And finally Francesco Clemente at Lorcan O’Neil.  History in the making. 6:30pm.