I was a very lucky boy to be back in Venice for a second time in less than a month, this time for the Venice Biennale, the arts fair extravaganza that takes over the sinking city every two years. (I was in Venice a few weeks back with Louis Vuitton, which you can read about here.) But before anyone begrudges my fortunate travel plans, at least allow me to say that it was chilly and rainy nearly every day I was there. Though, as I tweeted, even when it’s cold and wet, Venice is still the most magical city in the world.
I was at the Biennale this year for a few reasons. The first is that my friends Milla Jovovich and Tara Subkoff had collaborated for a piece they called ‘Failure to Connect,’ which was inspired by Herbert Marcuse’s quote: “The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment.” So, for six hours, Milla sat in a glass house that Urs Fischer had constructed in a small garden on the Grand Canal and ordered more and more materiaslic commodities, which were dumped on her. By the end of the installation, she was literally drowning in her purchases. “For me Milla embodies the ‘future’ as a woman who understands technology and the cyber world. This was a hugely important factor in this work as it is a depiction of the not so distant future,” Tara explained. “This was a dream of what the future might look like if we only live inside our glass house ordering online and having our lives turn into one big long live feed of what we are ordering. And advertising. Even advertising ourselves through tweeting and Instagraming. There may be no more authentic experiences.”
The other reasons for a Venice excursion? Well, I was already in Europe after the Cannes film festival and an opening for Francesco Vezzoli at the Maxxi Museum in Rome. I was excited for the Biennale, though I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I had hoped because it kept raining on me. (And there’s only one thing to do when it rains in Venice: Find the nearest café and eat some carbs.) I will say the most widely discussed piece at the Biennale was Ragnar Kjartansson´s S.S. Hangover, which consisted of a four piece marching band blasting jazz tunes on the back of a boat stuck in the Giardini at the Arsenale. Perhaps my favorite thing at this year’s Biennale wasn’t even part of the Biennale. Édouard Manet’s Olympia was back in Olympia, hanging next to Titian’s Venus of Urbino, which inspired the work. The Manet show was sensational. The Financial Times had a brilliant piece on the show, and seeing it in the flesh didn’t disappoint. And lastly, it’s Venice. Who really needs an excuse to go there?
Beyond the art, there is the social element of the Biennale. There are parties in nearly every palazzo, which can be fun but also overwhelming. Believe me, if my oft partners in crime Petey and Harry Brant think there’s too much going on, there’s just too much going on. Which isn’t to say we didn’t have fun. Francois Pinault did his annual dinner on the small island of San Giorgio Maggiore, which was decadent and surreal. And Purple Magazine had a party at a teeny, tiny palazzo near the train station. The highlight of that party? When Gavin Brown did his own mini-installation and stood up on a table and threw his plate of race across the room, smashing it against a wall. (See, packed schedules make people hostile.) However, when I wasn’t socializing or getting my art on, I spent a few hours at my favorite place in the world: The Cipriani’s Hotel in Venice. It’s a little slice of paradise.
The Manet exhibit is up until August 18th, and the Venice Biennale’s exhibitions will be on display until November 24th. (The New York Times did a fabulous review of this year’s Biennale, which you can see here.)
Captions, from top: In a shower of rose petals on the Grand Canal; Marc Quinn’s work on San Giorgio Maggiore, where the Pinault dinner was held; Harry and Milla at Tara’s dinner; Tara and Urs, new crushes; Lola Schnabel and Ginevra Elkann at Tara’s installation; Petey in repose; me and Chris Brenner; the ultimate host with the most, Chris Bollen serving drinks; Milla in her installation; a expectedly unexpected art piece in the street; my purchase in Venice: a gondolier’s hat, which I love; not quite clear skies, but still gorgeous; a Venetian traffic jam; Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis; me and Margherita Missoni; a couple of cute locals, Enrico and Mattia; Venice gives good ceilings; Manet’s ‘Olympia’; Purple’s Olivier Zahm; me with Milla’s daughter Ever, who was the most gorgeous work of art in all of Venice.