There is no grander gathering of contemporary art works in the world than at the Venice Art Biennale, this year in its 56th incarnation, which began in 1895. Between the leafy serenity of the Giardini, with its eclectic array of temples to national pride, and the L-shaped Arsenale (a 700-year-old munitions complex refitted as a freight-train-long hall of interlocking exhibits), the Biennale is the coveted stage for the most internationally diverse metalogue of high-ranking artistic voices to be found anywhere. The magical setting of Venezia itself, its overripe palazzi brimming with art and a marathon-partying art-world demimonde, makes the pilgrimage always worthwhile, no matter how controversial or blah the menu from year to year. Each edition, which runs from May until November of odd-numbered years, has its own ringmaster who orchestrates a central overarching exhibition that begins in the main Biennale pavilion and spills into the Arsenale’s longest leg.

While most of the anointed curators grope for a single encompassing theme that attempts to reveal something of the season’s zeitgeist, this year’s elected mastermind, Okwui Enwezor, has tried something a bit different. The dapper Nigerian-born writer-educator is clearly driven by the belief that his capacious tent — titled All the World’s Futures — must host a fertile intermingling of forms and experiments that loudly stretch in various directions, often unpredictably. Most of what he has brought to the show is the result of his own dialogues with living artists that germinated new projects. These have been arranged by what he refers to as filters: Garden of Disorder, Liveness: On Epic Duration, and Reading Capital [that of Karl Marx]. These zones of practice bring together various elements of the history of the Biennale itself, says Enwezor, into what he calls a Parliament of Forms. But best to let him tell you himself …


Michael Kurcfeld produces film and arts coverage for a number of outlets, and produces the Photographer Spotlight series for the Los Angeles Review of Books.