Blog – Venice art tours
12 December 2020
Naoshima: planning the exciting walk-to-art Japan
2020 has been a year to remember. In some ways it was lovely to slow down and not to travel. We learned to pivot, to make sourdough, to Zoom and to spend time being local.
Galleries closed their doors, art fairs went online and biennales were rescheduled. As people were home, art sales increased and empty walls were filled.
I reflected on the many international tours over the years that I had guided... the visual, cultural and gastronomy highlights of New York and Venice. I was appreciative that I was in Australia and safe at home.
I had a number of participants whom had travelled with me over the years to Venice and New York ring and express how lucky they were to have a collection of wonderful memories and visuals from the tours.
walk to art Venice: fingers crossed we will be there in 2022
My research trip to Japan to Tokyo, Nasoshima, Teshima and Inujima was cancelled in April (read Art in Japan's Teshima and Naoshima: a wonderful cultural experience). However, the exciting walk-to-art Japan will be planned when we can travel again.
The Melbourne tours and website received a little tweaking, with vouchers and tours now available to purchase online. With Melbourne out of lock down and starting to resume a new COVID-19 normal, walk-to-art Melbourne has resumed in a slightly different format. Smaller groups on Fridays and private tours on Saturday and Sundays.
I am thrilled to be still operating after 13 years and feel very fortunate to have shared so much art with so many participants during this time! Fingers crossed we will be together in Venice in 2022!
25 October 2019
Icelandic Pavilion: totally immersive and dreamlike space
Visiting Venice is always magical... Despite the increased number of tourists, you can still find quiet places and lovely Venetians who are not too cynical about the city that they live in.
I have just returned from the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia or Venice Biennale, titled May You Live in Interesting Times, with walk to art Venice.
The event was curated this year by American born Ralf Rudoff, who selected 79 artists to exhibit two works each – one in the Arsenale and the other in the Giardini. There were also 89 National Pavilions, 29 of those were in the Giardini and the others were scattered throughout Venice.
This was the first time that I enjoyed the Arsenale over the Giardini. The plywood structures used to divide the long building created a sense of warmth and a clear path for viewers.
As for the National Pavilions, the standouts were the Lithuanian Pavilion, winner of the Golden Lion, and the Icelandic Pavilion on Giudecca.
The Icelandic Pavilion (photo above), titled Chromo Sapiens and created by Shoplifter/Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, was an immersive cavernous environment of synthetic hair covering the walls and ceilings, graduating from dark to light with accompanying trance like music. It was a place to sit, meditate and absorb. It was a totally immersive and dreamlike space... a wonderful experience for all.
Lithuanian Pavilion: visual and performance based act
The Lithuanian Pavilion, titled Sun & Sea (Marina), and created by artists Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte and Lina Lapelyte, was also an immersive performance installation that allowed the viewer to look down on a man-made beach filled with holiday makers, people relaxing on the beach contemplating their life and their vacation, as they sung a contemporary opera. It was both a visual and performance based act engaging the viewer on many levels. The only downside was the 2-hour wait in the queue!
There is always so much to see, some not so good, some excellent, some outstanding and only a few breathtaking works that will never leave you. But it is worth the very long plane trip, the large tour groups and the pigeons that fly very low!
20 November 2017
The 57th Venice Biennale had Viva Art Viva as the theme and was curated by Christine Macel (Chief Curator at the Musée National d'Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France). She was the fourth woman in 122 years of the Biennale history to curate the former Venetian military dockyard – the Arsenale.
I have been fortunate to see many Venice Biennales (and this was the fourth with walk-to-art) and must admit that the 2017 edition was a little underwhelming. Of course, there are always outstanding national pavilions, but the Arsenale was a touch on the bland side compared to previous years.
I do not normally engage with performance art, but this exhibition was just wonderful. The dedication to the performance, the determination and the discipline were incredible. Doing Time exhibited two of Hsieh's One Year Performances together for the first time, assembling his accumulated records and artefacts into detailed installations. In One Year Performance 1980–1981 (Time Clock Piece), Hsieh subjected himself to the extreme discipline of clocking on to a worker's time clock on the hour, every hour, for a whole year. In One Year Performance 1981–1982 (Outdoor Piece), Hsieh inhabited a further sustained deprivation: he remained outside for a year without taking any shelter. During the course of his One Year Performances Hsieh was an illegal immigrant.
Andorra Pavilion – Murmuri
Artist: Eve Ariza
Curators: Javier Balmaseda, Ivan Sansa, Paolo De Grandis
It is such a pleasure to walk into a space and breath a wow!
Walking into the Andorra Pavilion was like suddenly being wrapped by tonal beauty. The 9,000 clay bowls attached to the dark grey walls in different tones echoed a sound of unity and togetherness. "Channeling the tradition of clay art, Andorran artist Eve Ariza worked on the multiplication of the bowl as a container of truth and placidity. The ceramic bowl appears as the first form modeled by man with an intention. She purposely tears its base to reveal a mouth-like shape, thus transforming its essence and leaving aside its conventional use."
Amazing to have gone back numerous times and seen the New Zealand Pavilion holding such a large crowd consistently. In a great position at the end of the Arsenale, Lisa Reihana produced an outstanding video work that was technically faultless and captivating.
"In Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, imperialism's gaze is returned with a speculative twist that disrupts notions of beauty, authenticity, history and myth. in Pursuit of Venus [infected], which was the artwork in which Emissaries was based on, is a cinematic re-imagining of the French scenic wallpaper Les Sauvages De La Mer Pacifique, 1804–1805, also known as Captain Cook's voyages. Two hundred years later – and almost 250 years after the original voyages that inspired them – Reihana employs 21st century digital technologies to recast and reconsider the wallpaper from a Pacific perspective."
I feel the need to include Damien Hirst's Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable at Palazzo Grassi and Punta Della Dogna, both owned by French entrepreneur François Pinault. He also owns one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world and in 2006 obtained ownership of Palazzo Grassi to display the collection. Damien Hirst is part of it, and the event marked his return after a 10-year hiatus from making art. It was over the top, extravagant, egotistical and an expensive exercise!
28 February 2017
walk-to-art is finally on Instagram!
After many conversations with friends and tour participants asking "why are you not on Instagram", I finally put the app on my phone.
I always prefer to see art work in the flesh and am always hesitant to view an exhibition online. However, it seems that the "hash tagging" has become rather important to today's way of experiencing everything.
Instagram has also become a way to archive works, reach an international audience, international curators and, of course, buyers and collectors who don't have the time to visit a show. Some artists use the platform to maintain a public profile and push the boundaries of censorship.
Ai Weiwei is an excellent example. Weiwei (@aiww) knows how to use the platform better than most, going beyond self-promotion to reveal the true power of social media.
Having travelled back and forth from New York for the last 10 years, I am a fan of Shepard Fairey's murals and past-ups. Fairey (@obeygiant) is also political and uses the platform to reach a wider audience, but shares links to works by other artists as well – it's a global community.
So walk-to-art's Instagram (@walktoart) will be about what my eye picks up along the way. Whether I am in Melbourne walking the streets, visiting a studio, an art opening or on tour. Or maybe from the streets of New York to the magical lanes in Venice to the hidden bars for a cheeky glass of prosecco or two!
12 November 2015
I have just returned from the third walk-to-art Venice. It was another fabulous trip, overloaded with art, food and wine...
I am slowly digesting the wonderful time I had – a great group of people, a few standout works of art and not to forget the Prosecco!
The 56th International Art Exhibition in Venice titled All The World's Futures was curated by Nigerian born Okwui Enwezor and organized by La Biennale di Venezia. There were 136 artists representing 88 participant nations, as well as 44 collateral events approved by the curator, all scattered around Venice in disused palazzos.
We stood proud in front of the newly built Australian pavilion, making it the 30th national pavilion to be built in the Giardini. Denton Corker Marshall designed the new pavilion and Fiona Hall's work captured the eyes of many.
Highlights for all of us in this year's walk-to-art Venice were: the Japanese pavilion, Jaume Plensa's work in the Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore and The Bridges of Graffiti.
Japan's pavilion was an exquisite installation by Chiharu Shiot (pictured above). Thousands of old keys showered down from the ceiling into tangled nets of crimson thread, some slipping through, others caught in wooden boats straight out of Hokusai. This work was simply beautiful creating and intensely meditative atmosphere.
On the island of San Giorgio we viewed Jaume Plensa's outstanding works (pictured above). A group of five alabaster sculptures of five teenaged girls from around the world, carved using reformed scans, were visually stunning and intimate. The luminosity of the portraits and the chosen long dark space of the Officina dell'Arte Spirituale created a reflective and emotional experience for all.
On a lighter note, The Bridges of Graffiti was a brilliantly curated exhibition by Francesca Alinovi. A great collateral event celebrating the history of graffiti with ten artists – Boris Tellegen, Doze Green, Eron, Futura, Mode2, SKKI ©, Jayone, Todd James, Teach, Zero-T. They all worked together for the very first time, bringing to life a single cohesive Hall of Fame piece within the Arterminal walls, with the site-specific works conceived especially for the exhibition.
And, on a food note, standing up and eating fresh pasta at Bigoi, ordering the brioche con marmellata at Tonolo and drinking Prosecco with all the Venetians behind the Rialto market on a Saturday night under the stars made this trip one to remember.
I am looking forward to the next Venice trip in October 2017.
12 March 2015
I think my last actual holiday was 9 years ago. All my trips are for work – I am on tour, at an art fair or at least art is the reason I am travelling.
There is a blurred line between rest, play and work... it's all in one big bubble!
On that note, here are some art fairs that are happening this year, not to mention the La Biennale di Venezia – 56th International Art Exhibition. Fiona Hall AO will represent Australia in our new pavilion designed by Denton Corker Marshall. And, of course, walk-to-art will be there in October.
Art Basel Hong Kong
15 to 17 March 2015
VIP preview: 14 March
Why you should go: Art Basel stages the world's premier modern and contemporary art shows, held annually in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Founded by gallerists in 1970, Art Basel has been a driving force in supporting the role that galleries play in the nurturing of artists, and the development and promotion of visual arts. There are 6 sectors: Galleries, Insights, Discoveries, Encounters, Magazines and Film. An extensive calendar of events is also on offer (starting from 10 March), as well as talks, discussions and films, pop-up bars, etc.
My advice: Go through the list of events before you leave and book online as you could miss out.
Art Central Hong Kong
14 to 16 March 2015
VIP preview: 13 March
Why you should go: Art Central is Hong Kong's exciting new art fair, showcasing the next generation of talents alongside some of the most established contemporary galleries and art spaces from across the globe. There will be 3 sectors: Central, Rise and Projects. This is Art Central's debut in Hong Kong, and galleries from Sydney and Melbourne are participating.
Frieze Art Fair New York
14 to 17 May 2015
Why you should go: Frieze New York is one of the world's leading contemporary art fairs located on Randall's Island Park, in Manhattan. Frieze New York brings together the most exciting contemporary galleries around the globe as well as the non-profit program that includes artist commissions, talks and education activities.
ART 15, London
21 to 23 May 2015
VIP preview: 20 May
Why you should go: Art15, the third edition of London's global art fair, will bring together 150 of the world' s most exciting galleries from 40 countries. They will showcase the masters of the modern era through to leading international artists from the contemporary scene. From Amman to Amsterdam, New York to New Delhi and Sao Paulo to Seoul, the fair will present art from across the globe.
24 October 2014
Where will you be in a year's time? What will you be doing? No ideas, no plans?
I would like to invite you to join me in a journey of discovery like no other:
Italy's La Biennale di Venezia in October 2015.
You may already know that the Biennale is considered the most important and prestigious event on the international contemporary arts calendar, and the oldest and largest established biennale in the world.
You may also know that Australia has been consistently represented in the Biennale for more than 3 decades, through the financial support and management of the Australia Council for the Arts.
But these are not the only reasons why I created walk-to-art Venice in 2011.
For me, it is important to travel and view art on an international level. It's exciting to view new spaces, art in different spaces and art that is contributing to our environment politically, socially and culturally.
- Eat, drink and walk your way through Venice.
- Visit Australia's new pavilion at the Biennale in 2015.
- Explore the pavilions in the Giardini and Arsenale and, most importantly,
the art scattered throughout Venice. These exhibits are in various locations hidden in opulent Venetian buildings.
You will receive a "pack" that includes the meeting spots and destinations for each day (these are never revealed upfront). Your guide, Bernadette Alibrando, will also take you to quirky bars and local eateries, plus areas around Venice.
For further details, please contact walk-to-art.
31 October 2013
October has been a wonderful visual month. I had the opportunity to explore Italy's La Biennale di Venezia – International Art Exhibition once again, and an overload of images keeps popping into my mind.
The experience of going to Venice is like no other, even after having been there many times before. The reason Venice holds a special place in my heart is the locals! Their knowledge of where to reside away from the massive tour groups who take over the small lanes of this magical city is gold.
My walk-to-art group was fabulous (no dramas and no Louis Vuitton cases without wheels to carry), and we all had 3 passions in common: exploring art, drinking prosecco and eating baccala (salted cod).
But let's talk about art. The highlights for me were Chile, Russia, Portugal, New Zealand and of course the hidden pavilions in disused palazzos.
The Chilean Pavilion, which was a site-specific installation by artist Alfredo Jaar, was visually, conceptually and structurally outstanding. It was silent yet loud in critically commenting on the Biennale organisational structure for exhibiting art.
All people from all walks of life watched, engaged and participated, as they viewed an army green model of the 28 pavilions from the Giardini della Biennale rise from the depths of the water (identical army green) to then sink beneath and disappear.
This work had so many layers; it was simple in approach, complicated in technique and creative in conceptual execution.
Is it worth going to La Biennale? Always.
Are the expensive Bellini at Harry's Bar worth it? Absolutely!
Until the next Biennale... Ciao!
25 October 2011
walk-to-art has just taken a group to La Biennale di Venezia – 54th International Art Exhibition – the first walk-to-art Venice.
Before I left for Italy I had a few people informing me that this year's Biennale was not very good, others saying that it was fabulous.
Well, I must say it was amazing. It was great on so many levels and not just for the art.
For 5 months every second year, Venice is transformed. For the art lover it is an abundance of opulent space and art in museums, disused buildings and of course the main arena's the Giardini and Arsenale.
During our time there every afternoon was dedicated to art and prosecco at 5pm... perfect. The mornings were for the early walks before the crowds and cruise ships started rolling in.
I've been back under a week and, after seeing a lot of art, I am still thinking about a few of the outstanding pieces:
- The most outstanding artist was Anish Kapoor, who is based in London.
- The most outstanding pavilion was the French one hosting Christian Boltanski.
Ascension by Anish Kapoor is located in the magnificent Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore.
"Ascension is a site-specific installation that materializes the paradox of the column of smoke: a vortex of white smoke rises from a circular base."
The feeling was one of enlighten, spirituality and peace. At first it appears to be lifeless, but with further attention a "tornado" swirl of smoke slowly rises to the top and disappears into the suction of the exhaust fan.
The space, the religious aspect, the technical difficulties, the concept is all outstanding. This is an installation that captured the audience emotionally, conceptually and technically.
Unfortunately for me the Australian pavilion was disappointing. However, next-door was a perfectly sharpened exhibition by Christian Boltanski representing France.
Christian Boltanski, a leading figure in the international art scene, featured a spectacular installation entitled "Chance."
"Chance" marks an important stage in the evolution of Christian Boltanski's work. Unlike the rest of his art, which is dominated by disappearance and death, here he opens himself up to a broader examination of fate. The unfolding of life and the rhythm of births and deaths raise the question of the universal and the individual in a new form, of what distinguishes one being from another.
Far from being grim, the ambience here is welcoming. Even though the brutality of an industrial and mechanical system serves thwarts the building's neoclassical harmony, here filtered light illumines the faces of newborns.
The sheer mechanical sound, install and the interaction aspect was outstanding and engaging. It was great to watch children get involved and excited.
Art is to speak to all and especially at the Biennale, where there are so many people from all walks of life. Both Kapoor's and Boltanski's works were successful because they achieved and produced work that was of an outstanding level.
9 September 2011
I have many friends on the way or on their return from La Biennale di Venezia – 54th International Art Exhibition, the oldest biennale in the world.
As for me, I have spent the last few days writing the info pack that will be sent to all the participants heading to walk-to-art Venice, between 10 and 16 October.
There's so much to see, not only in the main areas, such as the Giardini and Arsenale, but also in the buildings scattered throughout Venice and the islands.
It is important to travel and view art on an international level. It's exciting to view new spaces, art in different spaces and art that is contributing to our environment politically, socially and culturally.
Established in 1895, the Venice Biennale (La Biennale di Venezia) remains as the most important and prestigious event on the international contemporary visual arts calendar.
The Australian Pavilion is positioned within the Biennale Gardens (Giardini di Castello). The pavilion was designed by renowned Australian architect Philip Cox and opened in 1988. It was gifted to the Commonwealth Government and is currently managed by the Australia Council for the Arts.
Australia's official representation for the Venice Biennale 2011 will feature artist Hany Armanious. This exhibition will be curated by Anne Ellegood, who is based in Los Angeles at the Hammer Museum.
25 September 2009
I've just been in a beautiful tiny town named Pinacale and have travelled four hours by train to see the art at the 53rd Biennale in Venice (Italy). The Biennale occurs every second year (odd) in Venice and is an international affair.
There are tourists everywhere; however, Venice does not seem to lose its charm, as I meander through the many lanes navigating myself to hidden wine bars at 6pm for aperitivo time... un bichiere di proseco.
So much to see, such little time...
The two main venues to cover at the Biennale is the Giardini and the Arsenale.
53rd International Art Exhibition
from 7 June to 22 November 2009
The 53rd International Art Exhibition, titled "Making Words", directed by Daniel Birnbaum and organized by La Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta, is open to the public from 7 June to 22 November 2009 in the Giardini (50,000 square metres) and the Arsenale (38,000 square metres), as well as in various other locations around the city. Read more.
I start with the Giardini. It's easier to navigate than one would expect. Each country has its own building in the gardens. It takes me half a day... Highlights for me were "Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens" (United States) and "The Collectors" (Denmark and Nordic countries – Finland, Norway, Sweeden).
Chatting later... I noticed that I missed a few countries. Oops. I did manage to view the Australian exhibit by Sean Gladwell. Mad Max, Kangaroos, video work in a large black room. It was impressive and it was great to be an Australian in Venice.
For me the Arsenale was my favourite site. I was impressed by the work and the space. As I love discovering art in different places, the individual exhibits of different countries, scattered around Venice such as China, Iceland and Mexico were the highlights.
What an experience... I am looking forward to taking a walk-to-art group in 2011.