Sam Gilliam, Yves Klein Blue, 2017. At the 57th Venice Biennale. Photo: David Velasco.

57th Venice Biennale, “Viva Arte Viva,” Opens Saturday

The Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale, titled “Viva Arte Viva” and curated by Christine Macel, opens to the public on Saturday, May 13, and will run until Sunday, November 26 at the Giardini and Arsenale venues. The Biennale has been open for previewing since yesterday, with a round of artists already weighing in for on the works that stood out to them.

Described by Macel as an exhibition “designed with artists, by artists, and for artists,” the biennial offers a range of viewpoints on the participants’ creative processes, with their studio practices taking center stage. Featuring 120 artists, 103 who are participating for the first time, “Viva Arte Viva” is divided into nine chapters or “Trans-Pavilions,” including the “Pavilion of Artists and Books,” in which viewers can immerse themselves in the artists’ workshop and learn the reasons why they make art; the “Pavilion of Joys and Fears,” which explores the artists’ relationships to their own existence; the “Pavilion of Earth,” where artists address issues such as the exploitation of the planet’s resources and make observations about the natural environment; and the “Pavilion of Shamans,” in which exhibitors consider the creative act through a spiritual lens.

Other projects that will be taking place include “Open Table (Tavola Aperta),” where the public can meet with artists and engage in conversation over lunch; “Unpacking My Library,” in which artists talk about books that impacted their views on art-making; and the “Artists Practices Project,” a series of short videos the artists made about their way of working in the weeks preceding the Biennale. During opening week, around twenty live performances will also be staged at the Giardini, the Giardino delle Vergini, and other venues around the city. The events will be filmed and published on the Biennale’s website.

During a conversation with Michelle Kuo, editor in chief of Artforum, Macel explained that she did not want to choose a theme for the exhibition, often finding them either too broad, causing the show to lose coherence, or so narrow that it restricts the artists’ creative freedom. She said, “Instead of choosing a single theme, I worked closely with the artists to develop thinking about their practices. The way they make their art. The position they have chosen. Their surroundings—from the material, like their studio, to the intellectual: their inspiration, knowledge, research, influences . . . And so the show intimately explores the position of the artist, their studio, history, milieu, and so on. It’s like being at the level of the subject itself, being with the artist in their own sphere.”

In April, Macel announced that the exhibition’s highest honor, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, will be awarded to Carolee Schneemann during a ceremony inaugurating the exhibition at Ca’ Giustinian, the Biennale’s headquarters, on Saturday. Awards recognizing the best national participation as well as the best artist and emerging artist in the international exhibition have yet to be announced. The recipients will be selected by a jury comprising Francesca Alfano Miglietti, Manuel J. Borja-Villel, Amy Cheng, Ntone Edjabe, Mark Godfrey, and Borja-Villel, the president of the jury.

In addition, eighty-five national participants will stage exhibitions in the historic pavilions at the Giardini, the Arsenale, and in the historic city center of Venice. Four countries will be participating for the first time: Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, Nigeria, and Kazakhstan.

To see what works are resonating with artists on the ground in Venice be sure to read Artists’ Artists on For more coverage of the Biennale, check out Artforum’s Instagram.