Francesco Bonami was the curator of the 50th Venice Biennale. We chatted to him about his experience and heard his thoughts on this year’s Biennale.


The 54th Biennale has opened and comments about it are everywhere. What would you like to say about this year’s exhibition?

“I did the 50th edition of the Biennale, every edition after that I have had this very conflicted feeling about. This year I realised that once you direct a Biennale it became like your child and you always will love it more than anybody else. So I think that still I love my Biennial more than any other. I feel that the approach to the 54th Biennale is not the right one. It’s not an exhibition, it is something else and you have to address the context and the architecture of the spaces more aggressively if you want to leave a mark. I don’t think they did it.”


“It’s a shame and an embarrassment.Another opportunity missed.”


 The Biennale often provokes polemics. Is this a positive aspect that helps to increase awareness of the centrality of art, or it is something that ends up overshadowing the actual purpose of this event, which is to show art (and not merely to cause disputes between critics and journalists)?

“This year what overshadowed the Biennale was not so much the polemics but the tsunami of parallel shows happening in the city, which have been at times competing with the quality of the Biennale itself.”


What do you think about the choice of Vittorio Sgarbi as curator of the Italian Pavilion? Does he really deserve this appointment or it is more a matter of politics and the necessity to choose someone who is a celebrity rather than an actual art critic?

“It’s a shame and an embarrassment. TV has raped Italy as Islamic Fundamentalism has raped countries like Pakistan or Iran. Unfortunately, the fact that he will make the news is enough of a requirement to give him the responsibly of this very important job. It’s such a disaster for the Italian artists who deserve visibility. Another opportunity missed.”


“I don’t like art that you have to queue for. I am also claustrophobic…” 


What are your thoughts regarding Mike Nelson’s British Pavilion?

“In 2001 there was the German Pavillion with Gregor Schneider, it was very good – similar in the approach to Nelson’s idea, but more radical. These kinds of works are very theatrical, very spectacular, but I don’t know how good and long lasting they are. I also don’t like art that you have to queue for. I am also claustrophobic…”


You recently co-authored a book about the well-known artist Maurizio Cattelan, whose installation of 2000 taxidermy pigeons in the Central Pavilion is exhibited very close to a Tintoretto, do you think it has been a good choice to put these two works together? 

“I don’t know if it was a good choice, but it was definitely a smart choice; people remember mostly the Tintoretto and the pigeons and they forget everything else, or they remember the rooms where the pigeons were missing like the Fischli & Weiss one.”


“…the pace of contemporary art is so fast, it is more and more difficult to present new artists that will have a serious impact.”


Is the Biennale moving with the times and improving? Is the 54th Biennale focused enough on Contemporary Art and how essential is it for the Biennale to take contemporary artists into consideration?

“As a public institution it has improved tremendously in the last eight years in terms of infrastructures. As an exhibition I think that the pace of contemporary art is so fast that it is more and more difficult to present new artists that will have a serious impact.”


If you could choose one piece from this edition of the Biennale, which it would be?

Urs Fischer‘s candle sculptures at the Arsenale.”


How would you describe your experience of curating the 50th Biennale?



Image courtesy of Francesco Bonami


About The Author

Third-Year English & Italian literature student at Royal Holloway, University of London

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