We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Biennale Blogs

It's that time of the year  when the entire art universe descends on Venice for the International exhibition of contemporary art. In reality, it's held every other year, on the odd years, hence the name "Biennale".  On the even years, there is a Biennale, but for Architecture instead.

Each country that wishes to exhibit can do so, and selects some of it's most notable artists for the honor of exhibiting here at Biennale. There are 30 permanent pavilions located at Giardini ( the public gardens in the district of Castello) to house the exhibitions of returning regular countries. Other exhibits are located in the Arsenale, as well as all over the rest of Venice in non-used churches, palazzos, and other rented spaces.

This year, the 55th Biennale, kicked off a few days ago. I have to admit that having spent the last 5 years living way on the other side of town in Santa Croce, I barely noticed the onslaught of the art world at Biennale time. I have attended bits and pieces of Biennale before, but have never done the entire exhibition. I'm about to change that statistic.

Truth be told, I'm not much of a contemporary art fan.  Probably not the wisest statement for me to be making, in as much as I am married to an artist, and have a daughter with a fine arts degree who is a budding artist herself. Nevertheless, it's the truth. I'm not a great fan, but I have been known to be a critic. Mike is a pretty good realistic painter who took a turn to the dark side years ago when he decided he preferred to paint abstract instead. Again, remember I have already mentioned that I am not a great fan of contemporary art. It's not so much that I am not a fan of it, it's more that I just don't understand it. Ok, so fairly often when Mike would bring one of his abstracts up from his studio, I'd give my opinion, using what I called my "Crap scale". I'd rate his pieces Crap, really crap, total crap, and pure unadulterated crap. It was just between us, and all in fun.  (In reality, Mike's abstracts are very good. He's had several exhibitions, sells his work and had had several commissioned pieces).

Living near both Arsenale and Giardini, it's been hard to miss all of the Biennale preparations going on around us for the last 2 weeks. I almost felt a little left out not having been to any of the big exhibitions before, so I decided this year would be different.  I researched my options for tickets and discovered I can purchase a "Permanent Card" which is available for residents.  I even tried to purchase the ticket on the Biennale website, only to find out that advance purchase of this particular type ticket isn't allowed. I have to wait until June 1. Guess where I will be on June 1. That's right. You'll find me at the ticket office at Giardini waiting patiently in line for my own pass for this season.

My plan is to hit each and every exhibition, both the permanent pavilions and all of the collateral locations all over Venice. Biennale runs from June 1, the public opening date, until November 24. This week are the   opening events that are open only to special ticket holders and the press, and all of the gala pre-opening events that are invitation only.  You'll see my coverage of the exhibitions here on my blog as I experience all of it myself.

Who knows what I'll learn by exposing myself to something new. It's bound to be an interesting experiment. And- I plan to use my "Crap" rating scale only if necessary, but modified slightly to fit the circumstances. For Biennale it will be  Crap, Really Crap, Total Crap, and Crappissimo (that's Italian for "the most crappy").  Again, it's only in fun, and just between us. I know that this is an exhibition for the best of the best in the art world, and I have the utmost respect for the talent of these artists and newcomers.


Yesterday I stood in line at the Biennale ticket office at Giardini to purchase my season pass. I had already had a very long day, and the line seemed endless, but I was determined to find the patience to accomplish my task and go home with pass in hand.

Slowly, slowly, slowly the people ahead of me in line got their business taken care of. We inched forward. Just as there was only one couple ahead of me, I noticed a woman dressed entirely in red appear in front of me. She looked at me, I raised my eyebrow, she said, "Oh, I'm just here to join up with my friends", and pointed to the couple ahead of me. Ok, I could handle that.

A minute later, another pair of women put themselves in the line between me and the couple at the window who are just about to complete their transaction. I told these two women that the line is way behind me. One of them, with a very distinct French accent, proceeds to tell me that her friend has been waiting for her to arrive, and was standing off to the side of our line chatting with other people while she waited. So now that she's arrived, they are taking their turn at the window.  I explain again that  the line starts at the back. This woman proceeds to say she is taking her turn now, in front of me, given that she has finally arrived, and her friend has been in the "waiting line" over to the side for awhile. There is no "waiting line". I, and all the people behind me, have been in the only "waiting line" there is.  I told her I didn't understand this other "waiting line concept, her friend was over there chatting and was not in line" but she wasn't cutting in front of me. I'd waited, and it was my turn. This woman again decides she is going to educate me on how it is ok for her to cut into line because her friend was chatting while waiting for her.  This is a new one for me. She was mighty persistent, but  I stood my ground.  She kept trying, and finally asks " Are you this aggressive in your daily life? "

Funny, in my opinion, she was the aggressive one, attempting to push her way into the head of the queue.  I declined to respond. The look on my face said it all. What did she do? She cut into the line in front of the person just behind me, who let it all happen without saying a word.

I did not have a good first foray into the world of Biennale. But I did walk away with my permanent pass in hand, mission accomplished. Here's to better Biennale days ahead.


Rob C said...

Good on Ya Girl!

Did you say French, my thought is Parisian :-)

Enjoy the Exhibitions, is the pass valid until November?

Anonymous said...

Wow, how rude. On your crap scale she would be crapissimostest.
As always your blog entries have been wonderful.
Here is an article from today's NYTimes:
It is all about your new neighborhood.
There is also an article by Anne Somers Cocks (former head of Save Venice) in the NYReview of Books in which she outlines the corruption and politics involved in allowing Venice to figuratively slide into the water - drowning in tourists, private interests and big boats. It is too sad to send the link to a Venetian resident like yourself.
Ciao, Jane
PS You have a grown daughter??? Your writing makes you seem far too young for that.

karen said...

Rob- definitely French!
Yes, the Permanent Pass for locals is good till the last day of Biennale, November 24. Was there yesterday for a few hours of culture immersion. Based on yesterdays adventure, I may not make it to November! I came home exhausted, but went ahead and researched some of the artists I'd seen for about another 2 hours!!!

karen said...

Thanks so much for your support! I had a monent or two of doubt about myself!

And thanks for the link- ihad already read both articles you mention, but want to hang onto the first one, so your link is very helpful.

Oh my, I have 2 grown daughtes, I'm way older than you must have thought. grateful for the complement!!

Next Bienalle blog is just about ready to post!!!


Anonymous said...

Uffa! What a rude and presumptuous woman you encountered. Good on ya for standing your ground, it couldn't have been easy nor comfortable.

I look forward to the 'crap-ola' reports.

karen said...

Oh, Yvonne!!! You've taken my crap scale to new heights!! Crap-ola, we love it!

The stand in line for a Permanent pass has turned out to be worth the time and efforts. Now we walk in the exit door and are greeted by the attendants with a smile. No hordes. This morning I had the Swiss pavilion to myself ! Incredibile!!!!!!

Dianne said...

Karen, was she an older (like in her 60's) French woman or more like 35ish? I encountered the same phenomena (and possibly the same lady or her daughter) standing in line waiting to get into Versailles in 1982. She did the exact same thing (although did not try the "my friend has been waiting in the other line" routine) and I told her that the line was far behind me. Her reply: "I know". I again told her the line was behind me and again she responded in a similar fashion. I insisted by saying that "the line was in the back and everyone was obliged to wait their turn" Her response was to ignore this and say to her friend that "All these Americans are stupid" (Her exact words were "Tous ces Americaines sont si bete!"). Even though we were speaking in French I guess she thought I didn't understand her. I replied "Et les Francaises come vous sont plus que ca" roughly translated to "and French women like you are worse than that!" I noticed that the French people around me were smiling and cheering me on. Of course, Madame Rude proceeded to cut into line behind me and the other French people let her -- perhaps it's a French thing. Don't get me wrong -- I love the French but people like her give them a bad name. I'm curious as to whether you argued in English or Italian. Anyway, good on you!

karen said...

Dianne- I'm guessing mid to late 50's. Today I can laugh about it, but the day of the incident I was just livid. We "discussed" in English, as she began the whole thing by speaking to me in English.

Anonymous said...

Good for you for standing up to her. What a piece of work, and how arrogant!


Marsha in Toronto

Anonymous said...

Hi, wondering whether the permanent pass is only for residents, or can I buy one as a visiter

karen said...

HI, I did a little research on the passes. It appears you can buy a season pass, it costs a bit more than a resident can get it for, but it's possible. Hope you enjoy the Biennale!