Rewind: They say the Venice Biennale is the Olympics of the art world

Anastasia Klose, Vernissage of the 54th Venice Biennale. Courtesy the artist and ACCA Archive

By Katrina Hall

They say the Venice Biennale is the Olympics of the art world, and while I have no way of measuring whether or not that is true, one thing I can tell you is that people do run very fast there.

I noticed it on the first day of the Vernissage preview period.  The turnstyles opened and they were off.  A coiffured bunch of black-clad curator types sprinted up the main drag of the Giardini to the British Pavilion to beat the queue for Mike Nelson’s I, Impostor, the big ticket exhibition for the 2011 Biennale.

People do everything fast during Vernissage because there is so much to see and it all has to be seen.  So gallerists, collectors, critics and artists alike devour their breakfast Panini’s in record time and set off for a marathon run of art seeing, party going, Prosecco drinking and talking, talking, talking.

Stuart Ringholt, 54th Venice Biennale. Courtesy the artist and ACCA Archive

And, in 2011 I am there too, with a small team of artists and ACCA curators, who have decided, bravely, to mount a ‘pop-up’ at the 54th Venice Biennale.

The idea was to showcase, at the world’s most important art event, the performance-based trend in contemporary Australian art and the breadth of talent in Australian art generally.  The Venice Pop-Up was one of a series mounted by ACCA in galleries around Victoria, and in a shipping container on the ACCA Forecourt.

Artists Laresa Kosloff, Stuart Ringholt and Anastasia Klose accepted Artistic Director Juliana Engberg’s challenge to make a project without walls, each constructing performance pieces that would create a sense of surprise in the Venice environment.  Laresa was to hobble around the city with a fake broken leg, asking other artists to sign the plaster, Stuart was to do some sci-fi-style teleporting, whilst Anastasia was planning to take her lonely yet ever hopeful bride to the city of love.

Charlotte Day became the co-ordinating curator, with Liv Barrett along as intern.  Juliana and Charlotte blogged blogged blogged and back at the ranch Emma Sullivan was on stand-by at midnight to load up the stories.  ACCA was ahead of the news game.  People on the ground in Venice would say…oh I’m reading the ACCA blog for what to see.

On that first morning, when Anastasia sauntered into the gardens wearing a wedding dress and the words ‘Nana I am still searching’ on a cardboard sign around her neck, we knew the idea had legs.  The art-crowd came out of the French and Russian pavilions to take a look, albeit quickly, because everything has to be fast in Venice, but it was enough.

Luc Tymans signing Laresa Kosloff’s cast, 54th Venice Biennale. Courtesy the artist and ACCA Archive

And when internationally acclaimed Turner prize winning artist Grayson Perry, also dressed as a femme, put his arm around Anastasia, and then international actress Rachel Griffith gave her a hug we knew ACCA’s unofficial art tour of the official Venice Biennale gardens was a hit.

ACCA Pop-Up Program: VENICE
1-3 June 2011
Artists: Anastasia Klose, Stuart Ringholt, and Laresa Kosloff

Katrina Hall has been ACCA’s publicist since 2004.  She writes a column for The Weekly Review and will next year be in Venice to work with the Australia Council on the launch of the new Australian Pavilion and Fiona Hall’s exhibition Wrong Way Time.