Top 6 exhibitions you must see in Venice.

Simone Leigh, Sovereignty at the USA Pavillion, La Biennale di Venezia

1. Simone Leigh at the USA Pavilion.

The extraordinary vision of Simone Leigh at the USA Pavilion is breathtaking. She has totally transformed the space, reclaiming the pavilion in a form that’s true to her as an artist and acknowledging the weight of sacrifice that made this place possible. By far, it’s the best thing in the biennale this year and no matter how much I herald it, you won’t be disappointed. For this piece, I won’t be sharing too many images, I want you to be delighted when you see these works for yourself. I fell in love with Simone’s work when I saw her piece on the Highline on Manhattan and have been smitten by her singular audacity and focus ever since.

Simone Leigh, Brick House 2019. Photography by Timothy Schenck.

2. The Sámi Pavilion.

Many will say it’s about time the Nordic pavilion showcased the Sámi. For me, it was beautiful, moving, showing the deep connection of Sámi with the place that makes them whole, who have have lived since time immemorial, respectfully hunting and following reindeer. Take a very close look at the reindeer gut on exhibition and carry these words of Máret Ánne Sara with you.

Sámi Pavilion, La Biennale di Venezia

After the long and hard struggle our family has been through against the Norwegian state to protect our reindeer from forced slaughtering, I have a strong need to seek and manifest faith and hope. I tell my stories through the reindeer because what happens to the reindeer also happens to us. From an Indigenous perspective, I don’t see humans as superior or central. As human beings on this earth, we are simply a part of an interconnection of life forms and the constant dialogue and interdependence between these. My work asks questions about what happens when outside powers enforce laws upon you that systematically force you to break your own and collective ethics and morals, epistemology and philosophy. When your sanity is criminalised, how do you counter and continue?

3. The Malta Pavilion.

The world is ending, we will all be burned alive. The Malta Pavilion rains liquid steel into vats of water. Very few exhibitions have alarmed me and compelled me to get closer, knowing severe injury and certain death is inches away from my face.

4. Marlene Dumas, Open-End, Palazzo Grassi.

Marlene Dumas is erotic and compelling, it’s raw and immersive and you have a whole palace of over 100 works to explore. It focuses on her whole pictorial realm, with paintings and drawings (and penises) created between 1984 and today, including unseen works made in the last few years.

5. Anish Kapoor at Palazzo Manfrin

Catch the vaporetto to the Guglie stop and step off into the Palazzo Manfin to see some of the most ambitious work of Anish Kapoor. A whole palazzo has become an orgiastic miasma of red flesh.

6. Bruce Nauman at Palazzo Grassi: Punta Della Dogana, Pinault Collection.

For someone who was somewhat dubious about the value of video art, the Bruce Nauman exhibition completely transformed my mind in terms of what’s possible through thoughtful, compelling motion. The simplest actions, through repetition and manipulation become totally engrossing.

Even better, afterwards you can catch a traghetto for 2 Euros across the Grand Canal to the heart of Piazza San Marco. It’s the cheapest and most authentic gondola ride you’ll ever get. Just look for the green traghetto sign on the canal.

Bonus tip: Vino Vero wine and cicchetti.

Get away from the crowds and sit on this working canal for one of the most magical Venetian experiences. Vino Vero Venezia has one of the best selections of natural wines in the world becoming a meeting place for producers and drinkers for the wild range of wines by the glass. The bite size cicchetti are unbelievably delicious and the staff make you feel right at home.

Vino Vero, Fondamenta della Misericordia, Cannaregio 2497

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