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PRINT May 2002

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Venetian Brass: Steven Henry Madoff on the Biennale Brouhaha

When it was announced in March that Francesco Bonami had been appointed director of visual arts for the 2003 Venice Biennale, one imagined relieved silence falling over the roofs of the city. But of course in the great comic opera of Italian civic affairs, nothing ends in silence or, for that matter, ever seems to end at all.

Bonami, 47, a Florence native and senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, received word of his election amid a melee of mad political drama—Punch and Judy, Italian style. On one side of the stage, Franco Bernabè, newly named by the Italian culture ministry as president of the Biennale. On the other (and not without rancorous irony), Vittorio Sgarbi, undersecretary of the ministry and its official scourge of contemporary art. Waiting in the wings, the eminent and occasionally controversial art critic of Time magazine, Robert Hughes.

In December of

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