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Christine Macel

Christine Macel Opens Up about “VIVA ARTE VIVA”

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The press conference for the Venice Biennale, arguably the world’s most important contemporary art event, takes place three months earlier and is usually quite a confusing affair. That wasn’t the case for the 57th Venice Biennale, curated by Christine Macel, otherwise known as the chief curator of contemporary art at the Centre Pompidou.

She’s opted for a title that borders on a song lyric: “VIVA ARTE VIVA.” “There’s no Biennale without courage,” underscored Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale. Macel outlined her plans for the exhibition, which she is directing without any collaboration from other curators. “That’s how I always work, on my own,” she said. There will be 120 artists, 103 shown for the first time at the Venice Biennale.

Christine Macel

Photo by Andrea Avezzù
Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

She granted me an interview in private, as she is a reader of my blog (

JUDITH BENHAMOU-HUET: Tell me about the title.

Christine Macel

Photo by Giorgio Zucchiatti
Courtesy of la Biennale di Venezia

CHRISTINE MACEL: It’s sort of a mantra, a sort of art cry of passion for the art and the artists. There will be, at the center of the exhibition, their practices, their work, their worlds. It will be an exhibition in nine chapters, from the way the artists create in the studio through workshops, sources of inspiration, books, and the end of the show will be the pavilion of time and infinity—going out of oneself, opening oneself to the most unknown dimensions of our world.

JB-H: You want people to understand what it really is to be an artist of the 21st century.

Christine Macel

Overview of the Arsenale
Photo by Andrea Avezzù
Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

CM: Exactly. It’s very important for me to show their practices and positions because they correspond to a freedom that has never been so wide and forces every artist to invent his life. Art doesn’t change the world. Art is the place where the world can be reinvented.

JB-H: And we need it to be reinvented.

CM: The world has become more complex, and so, too, has art. I would like the public to get closer to the artists’ practice, understand it. On the website and at the biennale, there will be artists talking about their practice in 30-second to 5-minute videos.

We over-consume on artists, then forget about them too quickly. There will also be artists who are not young and deserve to be rediscovered.

JB-H: How do you choose whom to include with the sheer volume of artists out there?

CM: I have an inner filter. Something happens. It’s a proposition that stirs you, that excites you. I, too, want pleasure from art. I am physical, instinctive, and bodily in my relation to art. Of course I am cerebral, too. Evidently, for those who only view contemporary art at the fairs, there will be a lot of unknown artists. The biennale is the fruit of my research since 1995.

JB-H: What are your thoughts on the current art market?

CM: There is a positive consequence from the art market omnipresence, which is to make art more popular, and there’s a negative consequence: It transforms art into a luxury object.

JB-H: What should the Venice Biennale be?

CM: A connected wandering. As you move from one work to another, the progression, you will progressively understand the approach being taken.

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