BY Jennifer Higgie in Reviews | 07 JUN 11

Postcards from Venice Pt. 6: The Reviews!

Press reaction to the 54th Venice Biennale

BY Jennifer Higgie in Reviews | 07 JUN 11

Now we’ve returned from Venice, it’s time to take stock. On the whole, I, for one, liked this Biennale. Bice Curiger’s intelligent curating with Tintoretto as its heartbeat, the god-awful Italian Pavilion that was its own best/worst critic, the arrival of new pavilions such as Zimbabwe; Eygpt’s swift and appropriate decision to choose Ahmed Basiony, the young artist who died at Tahrir Square, to represent their country; Denmark’s bold pavilion about freedom of speech that included no Danish artists … there was so much that was rich, interesting, provocative and thoughtful here, that to write the kind of response this show deserves would take more time than I have today. In the meantime, here’s a quick round-up (in alphabetical order) of some of the wildly divergent reviews that have been posted by various newspapers, blogs and journals in recent days – many more, obviously, will be published in the next few days – feel free to add links. We’ll be covering the Biennale in depth in our September issue. Stay tuned.

The Age: After almost 25 years of critical sniping, Australia’s pavilion in the Giardini will finally be replaced, it was announced last night.

The Australian: Celebrities and super-rich change the face of Venice’s 116-year-old Biennale. By Ben Hoyle

Art Agenda: With its ludicrous mismatch of scale (83 artists in the main exhibition, 89 national pavilions, 37 collateral events) and logistics (crowds numbering thousands, endless slow-moving queues, and a labyrinthine city navigable only by foot or boat), the Venice Biennale is something like a theater of the absurd. By Kirsty Bell

Art Agenda: Welcome to Biennale Nation. Like the city of Venice, it’s a bit hard to navigate with its quick twists and idiosyncratic logic; better find an insider or a tour. If you care for an adventure, use t he title of the fair’s curated section as a compass: By Adam Kleinman

The Art Newspaper: Elegant, intelligent and well paced, but its curator Bice Curiger takes few risks. By Georgina Adam and Jane Morris

The Art Newspaper: Italian Pavilion: Vittorio Sgarbi’s sprawling, sexed-up show: Culture minister in no hurry to visit nation’s contribution to Venice 2011. By Cristina Ruiz

The Art Newspaper: Censorship in Venice: sculptures covered up at the Azerbaijan Pavilion. By Gareth Harris

Boston Globe: First take on Venice Biennale. By Sebastian Smee

Financial Times: About suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters. I will forever love Bice Curiger, director of the 54th Venice Biennale, for her nerve in installing three monumental paintings by Tintoretto, the most stagey and daring of all Venetian painters, as the opening to her main exhibition pavilion. By Jackie Wullschlager

Guardian: The Venice Biennale’s balance of power: It’s got Olympic gymnasts and an Elvis impersonator, plus a lot of kitsch and queues – but has the Venice Biennale finally got political? By Adrian Searle

Independent: Mike Nelson has done rooms within rooms before – but here the result is scary, apocalyptic, and one of the triumphs of this year’s Venice Biennale. By Charles Darwent

Los Angeles Times: At the Venice Biennale, national artists know no boundaries: National pavilions can be a point of pride at the event. But many artists chafe at the idea of national representation. By Jori Finkel

The National: Egypt displays an artful legacy at the Venice Biennale: With the tribute paid to the artist Ahmed Basiony at Egypt’s Venice Biennale pavilion, art sheds light on Cairo’s uprisings. By Christopher Lord

New York Times: While the arts may be struggling in many parts of the world in the face of reduced resources, the Venice Biennale seems immune to the economic downturn. By Roderick Conway Morris

New York Times: The impossible enormity of the Biennale beast begins to sink in. With all the additional pavilions scattered about town and the independent exhibitions that are out there, too, Venice currently has more contemporary art on offer than any one person can see, even without the usual considerations of time, money and eye-strain. By Roberta Smith

New York Times: Much of this Biennale is more subdued and less experimental than in years past, more of a nostalgic meditation on life and art than a revelatory peek into the future. By Carol Vogel

Tapei Times: Sounds of ordinary folk feature at the Venice Biennale.

Telegraph: Mike Nelson, British Pavilion. By Richard Dorment

Telegraph: Venice Biennale cover-up: Azerbaijan art has come under wraps at the Venice Biennale festival. By Catherine Humble

Times of India: Indian origin artist goes to the Venice Biennale

Jennifer Higgie is a writer who lives in London. Her book The Mirror and the Palette – Rebellion, Revolution and Resilience: 500 Years of Women’s Self-Portraits is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, and she is currently working on another – about women, art and the spirit world.