Women of Venice
The pavilion of Switzerland brings an homage to Alberto Giacometti, one of the most influential Swiss artists of the 20th century. Even though he was asked several times to exhibit at the Swiss pavilion, which is built by his brother, he always refused. The underlying rationale was that he saw himself as an international artist and didn’t want to be defined through a national identity. He did however make a sculpture ‘Femme de Venise’ (Woman of Venice) for the French pavilion in 1956, for which he received the ‘Grand Prix for Sculpture in Venice’ in 1962.
Curator Philipp Kaiser aims to explore the concept of national identity, which was the reason for Giacometti for declining, as well as issues of cultural policy. The exhibition will feature new work by Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler and Carol Bove, created specifically for this Biennale in reference to the legacy and universe of Alberto Giacometti.
The artist duo Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler will present their film installation ‘Flora’. The combination of fictional and documentary material will reconstruct and re-imagine Flora Mayo’s life. This American artist studied in Paris in the 1920s, at the same time as Giacometti, and was his lover.
Carol Bove takes Giacometti’s figurative constellations as a starting point, tracing their relational forces. As a response to Alberto Giacometti’s historic absence from the Swiss pavilion, she will create a new group of sculptures referring to his late figurative work.
“The exhibition ‘Women of Venice’ aims to reflect on the history of the Pavilion and Switzerland’s contributions to the Biennale di Venezia from a contemporary perspective, and to initiate new work, specific to this context.”
Philipp Kaiser, curator
Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
Teresa Hubbard (Irish/American/Swiss, born in Dublin 1965) and Alexander Birchler (Swiss, born in Baden 1962) have been working as a collaborative artist duo since 1990. Their lens-based practice interweaves hybrid forms of storytelling and explores the connections between social life, memory and history that sit just outside the frame of a recorded image. Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler’s work is held in numerous public collections and their exhibition history includes solo and group exhibitions at venues including the 48th Venice Biennale.
Hubbard attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the graduate sculpture program at Yale University School of Art, New Haven. She holds olds the William and Bettye Nowlin Endowed Professorship in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. Birchler studied at the Academy of Art and Design Basel and the University of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland and is an Affiliate Research Scholar at the University of Texas at Austin. They received MFA degrees from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Canada in 1992.
Carol Bove is an American artist, who was born in Geneva in 1971 and raised in Berkeley, California. She studied at New York University, where she later taught as an associate professor of studio art. She is known for her assemblages that combine found and made elements. Incorporating a wide range of domestic, industrial and natural objects, her sculptures, paintings, and prints reveal the poetry of their materials. Her work is represented in permanent collections worldwide and has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions. In 2014, a major two-person exhibition, Carol Bove/Carlo Scarpa (the famous Venetian architect), was held at Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, and travelled to Museion, Bolzano and Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle.
The pavilion of Switzerland is located in Giardini and dates from 1952. It was designed by Bruno Giacometti, the brother of Alberto Giacometti. Prior to this pavilion, Switzerland had another pavilion, designed by Brenno Del Giudice, at Sant’Elena which they used from 1932 until 1952.
The pavilion was conceived as a study of the relationship between modern architecture and the surrounding nature. Bruno Giacometti wanted to explore how the greenery and light of the park could influence the presentation, and perception, of art in the pavilion’s interior. The pavilion is a good representation of Swiss architecture of that period. Almost all the schools, garden restaurants, villas, and showrooms being built in Switzerland in those days looked like this.
Viva Arte Viva
Switzerland will also be represented at the ‘Viva Arte Viva exhibition’ of Christine Macel by Heidi Bucher and Julian Charrière.
The Swiss avant-garde artist Heidi Bucher (1926-1993) distinguished herself through her legendary ‘mouldings’, focusing and exploring the architectural space and the body through sculpture. It is a transformative and poetic work, that deals primarily with private spaces, the body, domestication, and individual and collective experiences.
Julian Charrière uses sculptural objects and images—both moving and still—to explore the connections between human activity, ecology, the environment, and time. Working in such far-flung locales as Kazakhstan and the Southern Cone, the Berlin-based artist performs site-specific actions inspired by the social and natural sciences, using biological and earthen substances as materials. He collaborated with Julius von Bismarck for the site specific performance ‘Some pigeons are more equal than others’ at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.
Switzerland will again host the Salon Suisse, similar to last year for the Architecture Biennale. This series of talks and events provides a platform to discuss contemporary art. There are four series planned, in May, August, October and November. All details can be found on the Pro Helvetia website. The events take place at Palazzo Trevisan degli Ulivi (Dorsoduro 810).
If you want to know more about the Art Biennale 2017 and the other national participations, this overview page is a good starting point or you can read my post ‘What to expect from the Art Biennale 2017’. If you want to be informed about new pavilions being added to the site, you can subscribe to The Venice Insider biweekly newsletter.
(Picture in banner: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler – Flora 2017, production still. Alberto Giacometti and Flora Mayo with the bust she made of him ca. 1927. Photographer Anonymous – Source: Sammlung Fotostiftung Schweiz. Winterthur )
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