The Biennale exhibition, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, has turned out to be something of a coup. He has compellingly followed through his basic idea of submerging him and us – via surrealism, spiritualist abstraction, ‘outsider art’, popular culture – into the phantasmagorical unconscious and the primordial of 20th century art (and its digital counterpart of the 21st).
The title for Massimiliano Gioni’s Venice Biennale – an exhibition which is mostly wonderful, often magisterial and elegantly provocative – comes from a work by Marino Auriti, Enciclopedico Palazzo del Mondo (c.1950s). A model of this skyscraper is installed in the first room of the Arsenale. The Italian-American artist’s quixotic aim was for the building to house all the knowledge in the world; he estimated that it would cost about $2.5 billion to realize. Unsurprisingly, Auriti never found a backer, though he wrote plenty of letters, and even patented his design. For decades it languished in his garage. In 2003, 23 years after Auriti died, his granddaughters donated the model to the American Folk Art Museum in New York.