2017 Venice Biennale

Only in Venice: A Familiar-Looking Video Installation Saves Me When Lost in the Venice Labyrinth

A restaurant in Venice at night.COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A restaurant in Venice at night.


And here I was thinking I was being responsible leaving the Bauer Hotel at a decent hour, despite the fact that the art world’s itinerant martini-swilling faction had most emphatically sidled up to the bar, with no apparent interest in calling it a night. There is, I recall reasoning, art to see the next morning.

But perhaps it wasn’t a great idea to step blindly into the labyrinthine web of Venice alleyways with ten-percent battery on my phone. It died almost immediately. And, with the ARTnews pad a good 25 minutes’ walk from the Grand Canal, it wasn’t a great idea to just wing it. And then there was some sort of video installation, playing above a dimly lit restaurant, Al Colombo, on San Marco. Taking it to be a Biennale bat signal of some sort, I walked in to find a white-maned gentleman sitting and smoking at the far end, with his phone plugged into a portable charger. I stammered something about needing some juice, and suddenly he switched his phone out for mine, gin and tonic appeared on the paper-covered table and we got to talking about the work on display throughout the city. He loves the Damien Hirst show.

After a few minutes of charging, with enough battery left to power the map that would get me home, I asked the man, who turned out to be a lifelong Venetian and the second-generation owner of the restaurant, who did the video work on display by the wall.

“Oh that?” he said. “It’s a work by my good friend Lola Schnabel. Her family has been coming here for years.”

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