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THE LONG VIEW

Liliana Porter, El hombre con el hacha y otras situaciones breves, Venecia 2017 (Man with Ax and Other Brief Situations, Venice 2017) (detail), mixed media. Installation view, Arsenale, Venice. From “Viva Arte Viva: Pavilion of Time and Infinity.” Photo: Chandra Glick.

EVERYONE I SPOKE TO at the opening of “Viva Arte Viva,” the centerpiece of the Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale, was unambiguously assertive in their condemnation. So boring! So apolitical! So neo-primitivist! So anthropological! So male (65 percent) and so white (57 percent)! And let’s not even get started on all those themed pavilions: “Time and Infinity”? “Artists and Books”? And did you read the wall texts? Embarrassing!

Some of these comments were warranted, but their vehemence was disconcerting, because I found curator Christine Macel’s Biennale far from offensive; I’d even say enjoyable. The artistic selections, if less diverse than one would hope for in 2017, are solid and largely laudable. The show manages to avoid the reek of blue-chip gallery money that increasingly hovers around Venice, which is no mean feat. The installation as a whole is more digestible than Massimiliano

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