59th Venice Biennale and Beyond: Artist Selections
Advisory Perspective

59th Venice Biennale and Beyond:
Artist Selections

By Rory Mitchell | Venice, 23 April 2022

Including works by modern giants to contemporary stars that tap into the political present, this year's Venice Biennale is momentous. The Biennale's main exhibition, The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, contains strong female energy, and is surrounded by awe-inspiring pavilions and collateral exhibitions. Below are some of our favourites from across Venice.


Ruth Asawa, The Milk of Dreams, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Ruth Asawa, The Milk of Dreams, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Ruth Asawa, The Milk of Dreams

A modernist who spent three years at the progressive Black Mountain College in the late 1940s, Ruth Asawa's inclusion in the main exhibition is part of a cross-generational offering that sheds light on many figures who have been overlooked until recently.

Market desire for Asawa's woven wire sculptures has continued to skyrocket since the artist achieved a record $4.1 million at auction in 2019, when her Untitled (S.387, Hanging Three Separate Layers of Three-Lobed Forms) (1955) sold at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning session.

In 1947, on a trip to Toluca in Mexico, Asawa encountered a craftsman making wire egg baskets, whose technique would inform the artist's own experimentation with achieving sculptural lightness.

In 2021, an exhibition of her iconic wire sculptures went on view at David Zwirner in London.


Simone Leigh, Façade (2022). Thatch, steel, and wood, dimensions variable; Satellite (2022). Bronze, 7.3 x 3 x 2.3 m (overall). Exhibition view: U.S. Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Simone Leigh, Façade (2022). Thatch, steel, and wood, dimensions variable; Satellite (2022). Bronze, 7.3 x 3 x 2.3 m (overall). Exhibition view: U.S. Pavilion, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Simone Leigh, U.S. Pavilion

Simone Leigh's U.S. Pavilion project is the latest in a wave of milestones, among them a commission for the High Line Plinth in New York (2019–2020), a solo show at Hauser & Wirth's Zurich space (2021), as well as her inclusion in other major exhibitions such as Prospect.5 in New Orleans and the 2019 Whitney Biennial.

Titled Façade, the thatch structure encasing the Pavilion takes as its departure point the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition that attempted to display elements of African and Asian societies to European audiences.

Leigh reclaims such colonial efforts by artfully blending different cultural registers and forms, creating show-stopping contemporary sculptures.

Commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, an exhibition of Leigh's sculptures is also on view at the institution until 4 September 2023.


Isamu Noguchi, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Isamu Noguchi, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Isamu Noguchi, Fondazione Querini Stampalia

We were amazed by White Cube's recent exhibition of Isamu Noguchi's steel sculptures and Akari lights in London, encapsulating the artist's ability to create a sense of weightlessness with different materials.

His glowing lamps also recently featured at the Barbican, but this most recent presentation at the Venice Biennale trumps it all for us.

Placed against the ornate furnishings of the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, where his work is being presented alongside those by Danh Vo and Park Seo-Bo, the installation creates a unique interplay between classical and modern.

Noguchi's most expensive work at auction, a stone sculpture titled Olmec & Muse (1985), fetched almost $5 million at Christie's in 2017. With growing attention paid to the artist's practice in the last two years, this will no doubt reach new heights.


Andra Ursuţa, The Milk of Dreams, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Andra Ursuţa, The Milk of Dreams, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Andra Ursuţa, The Milk of Dreams

We have been following Andra Ursuţa's practice closely since the artist's 2021 solo exhibition at David Zwirner in Paris, where cast-glass sculptures tinted with radioactive hues were placed on pedestals made of concrete blocks, set against grey walls.

Ursuţa's highly tactile sculptures use 3-D scanning and wax casting to translate forms into lead crystal. Sometimes using her own body as a model, Ursuţa has previously remarked, 'I return to the body a lot because it represents an obstacle, vulnerability, decay, shame. It's the thing that is impossible to transcend.'

The artist's inclusion in The Milk of Dreams marks a return to the Venice Biennale, having participated in 2013 and 2019.


Christina Quarles, The Milk of Dreams, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Christina Quarles, The Milk of Dreams, 59th Venice Biennale, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Christina Quarles, The Milk of Dreams

Six of Christina Quarles' large-scale and enigmatic figurative paintings lit up Cecilia Alemani's heralded exhibition, The Milk of Dreams.

A melting pot of gestural brushstrokes, eye-popping colour, and rich texture, one can understand the draw these intriguing paintings are having on curators and collectors alike.

Last year, Hauser & Wirth announced their representation of the artist—alongside London-based Pilar Corrias—with her first solo exhibition at the gallery scheduled for this autumn in New York.

Meanwhile, her travelling exhibition is currently on view at Seattle's Frye Museum until 5 June.


Marlene Dumas, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Marlene Dumas, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2022. Photo: Ocula Advisory.

Marlene Dumas, Palazzo Grassi

The Palazzo Grassi provides an incredible backdrop for Marlene Dumas' evocative portraits.

Working from source materials including newspapers, magazines, and film stills, Dumas has once remarked, 'I am an artist who uses second-hand images and first-hand emotions'. Threading themes including race, gender, love, and oppression, these are poignant images for the times.

Born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1953, Dumas grew up during the Apartheid, later arriving in Amsterdam in 1976. In 1995, she represented The Netherlands at the Venice Biennale.

In 2014, Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden travelled from the Stedelijk Museum to Tate Modern and later The Beyeler Foundation, while a solo presentation of the artist's work was presented at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris last year in celebration of the bicentenary since Charles Baudelaire's birth in 1821.


Francis Alÿs, Belgian Pavilion

The calibre of Francis Alÿs' skill is on full show at the Belgian Pavilion.

In this beautifully curated presentation, the artist's miniature oil on canvas paintings line the walls of the pavilion, taking viewers to different settings, including a cricket match in Afghanistan and a snooker game in Shanghai.

Dotted around the central space, video reels capture children playing in various parts of the world, including Hong Kong, Belgium, and Canada.

The beautifully filmed reels appear to be in dialogue with one another, placing viewers in a seamless and borderless installation.

Main image: Simone Leigh, Façade (2022). Thatch, steel, and wood, dimensions variable; Satellite (2022). Bronze, 7.3 × 3 × 2.3 m (overall). © Simone Leigh. Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Timothy Schenck.


WORKS

Figure (1352-Y) by Simone Leigh contemporary artwork sculpture
Simone Leigh Figure (1352-Y), 2020 Glazed stoneware
74 x 27.6 x 44.8 cm
David Kordansky Gallery
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Stretch (COBALT) by Simone Leigh contemporary artwork sculpture
Simone Leigh Stretch (COBALT), 2020 Noborigama fired stoneware
87 x 27.9 x 27.9 cm
David Kordansky Gallery
Contact Gallery
Sentinel IV (Gold) by Simone Leigh contemporary artwork sculpture
Simone Leigh Sentinel IV (Gold), 2021 Bronze, gold leaf
315.1 x 63.5 x 38.1 cm
Hauser & Wirth
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Pigeons and Cobblestones (TAM.1478) by Ruth Asawa contemporary artwork print
Ruth Asawa Pigeons and Cobblestones (TAM.1478), 1965 Lithograph on paper
23 x 35 inches
David Zwirner
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Cloud Mountain by Isamu Noguchi contemporary artwork sculpture
Isamu Noguchi Cloud Mountain, 1982–1984 (2021) Bronze plate
177.2 x 125.1 x 71.8 cm
White Cube
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Fat Dancer by Isamu Noguchi contemporary artwork sculpture
Isamu Noguchi Fat Dancer, 1982–1983 (2019) Hot-dipped galvanized steel
132.1 x 69.9 x 31.8 cm
White Cube
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Predators 'R Us by Andra Ursuţa contemporary artwork sculpture
Andra Ursuţa Predators 'R Us, 2020 Lead crystal
73.7 x 68.6 x 132.1 cm
David Zwirner
Impersonal Growth by Andra Ursuţa contemporary artwork sculpture
Andra Ursuţa Impersonal Growth, 2020 Lead crystal
67 x 54.6 x 17.8 cm
David Zwirner
No Belt by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork painting
Marlene Dumas No Belt, 2010–2016 Oil on canvas
200 x 100 cm
Zeno X Gallery
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Baudelaire (double) by Marlene Dumas contemporary artwork painting
Marlene Dumas Baudelaire (double), 2020 Oil on canvas
40 x 30 cm
Zeno X Gallery
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