60th Venice Biennale opens with a wealth of Belgian artists

The 60th edition of the Venice Art Biennale opens to the public on Saturday. Almost 90 countries are represented at the art event, which this year is called Foreigners Everywhere.

The Belgian pavilion, one of the 29 national pavilions in the Giardini di Castello, is run alternately by the Flemish and French communities. This year, the collective Petticoat Government, chosen by the French community, represents Belgium in the Italian city.

Petticoat Government was founded as a choral work or collective by seven people: Sophie Boiron, Valentin Bollaert, Simona Denicolai, Pauline Fockedey, Pierre Huyghebaert, Antoinette Jattiot and Ivo Provoost. For the Biennale, they created a multidisciplinary scenario based on "folkloric giants" inspired by communities in Belgium, France and Spain. Over the past few months, the giants have left their own region to meet in Italy.

The term "petticoat government" refers to a local government in which women are in charge. The group aims to experiment with the reversal of hierarchies and dimensions, including that of height when it comes to the giants.

In addition to Petticoat Government, artist Koen Vanmechelen will be present at the Biennale with two works and curation of the exhibition Glass Stress. "Venice is to culture what the Galapagos Islands are to nature," he says.

Contemporary artist Berlinde De Bruyckere joins the lineup with her exhibition City of Refuge III, which explores contrasts such as cruel and tender and horror and comfort. Based on the tradition of old masters using contradicting emotions, De Bruyckere has created battered figures of angels suspended between heaven and earth.

© Venice Biennale 2024
© Venice Biennale 2024

The event hosts 331 artists and collectives from almost 90 countries, staying true to the edition's title. "It is a testimony to how artists have always travelled and moved in different circumstances," says curator Adriana Pedrosa. This year, the biennial focuses on artists who are "exiled, refugees, expats or immigrants".

The Israeli pavilion will remain closed until the hostages held by Hamas are released and a ceasefire is reached in the Gaza Strip. The exhibition was meant to spotlight Israeli artist Ruth Patir with M/otherland, a video installation about her relationship with her homeland.

"We have become current affairs and no longer art," she says. While she is against the cultural boycott, she joins those calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of the hostages.

On the first day of the Biennale, artists Anna Maria Maiolino and Nil Yalter will receive a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. The Venice Biennale exhibitions run until 24 November.

Sculpture by Giulia Andreani © PHOTO MIRCO TONIOLO / AVALON

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