In this 56th edition of the Venice Biennale, the national pavilions don’t pack a punch. Rather, they offer general sobriety and balance—characteristics determined by the biennale curator Okwui Enwezor. We’ve listed five pavilions that stand out for the exactitude of their curatorial projects, the humor of the artworks, and their use of renovated spaces.
British Pavilion, Giardini
“I scream Daddio”
Sarah Lucas has surely realized the most ironic and playful exhibition of the Venice Biennale, curated by Richard Riley. The pavilion is completely painted in yellow, every single wall—and the artworks represent a joke: it’s Lucas’ joke and you just have to play along. Partial body parts of women standing on chairs, toilet seats, and a fridge with cigarettes inserted in their anus and vaginas expressing the artist’s sense of dark humor and satire.
Japan Pavilion, Giardini
“The Key in the Hand”
Chiharu Shiota’s installation (curated by Hitoshi Nakano) is a huge, sensorial experience that transcends linguistic or cultural boundaries. Hundreds of keys stuck to red threads hang from the ceiling and transform the Japan Pavilion into an impenetrable jungle.
Danish Pavilion, Giardini
Essential, clear and smart, the Danish pavilion is probably the most beautiful of this biennale. Not only has the Vietnamese artist with a Danish passport, Danh Vo, presented aesthetically minimal artworks fully coherent within the space, but he has also worked on the structure of the pavilion, making it brighter and more beautiful than its former editions. Curated by Marianne Torp and Tine Vindfeld, the artworks on view are typical of his practice and his famous paradoxes: a head of a Greek statue inside a box used to carry bottles of whiskey, and human figures carved in wood.
Canada Pavilion, Giardini
The Canadian pavilion is the market at the corner of the road: once you’re inside, among chips, chewing gum, and DIY stuff, you feel like a victim of a mockery. This is how the BGL Art Collective chose to depict the wastefulness of North America, and the suggestion for a spasmodic recycling of every little thing. The result is an original and irreverent pavilion, curated by Marie Fraser. What makes it more interesting is that the pavilion is dynamic, as if the set-up is still in progress.
Dutch Pavilion, Giardini
“To be all ways to be”
You will remember the smell inside the Dutch pavilion. Herman de Vries, an 83-year old artist, shows his reflections on nature and its colors by creating an ecosystem of wood, flowers and plants. Curated by Cees de Boer and Colin Huizing, the installation fits with the architectonic choices made by Rietveld, who designed the pavilion.