2017 Venice Biennale

Philippe Parreno Has a Bad Cold and a Shot Voice at the Venice Biennale But Can Still Whisper About His Show at RAM in Shanghai

The Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai.WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

My phone died again Tuesday afternoon, this time while having a spritz at a spot near the Palazzo Nani Bernardo, where there was to be cocktails for Philippe Parreno, on occasion of his show in July at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai.

I had no idea how to get to this Palazzo Nani Bernardo with a dead phone and no map, so wouldn’t it be my luck that just a few tables away I spotted Parreno, who was also having a spritz, and talking to his frequent collaborator, Asad Raza, who currently has a work in the Whitney Biennial in New York. But before I could go say hello and follow them to the party in lieu of staring at a phone, they had departed, leaving me to pinball between alleys until I found the garden of the palazzo, by sheer luck alone.

When I got in, I snagged an outlet to charge the damn thing, and then I was introduced to Larys Frogier, the director of RAM, who was nursing a Prosecco in the garden, and explaining how Parreno’s practice—where sound and light fold into each other in the space to deconstruct the objective and the narrative qualities of an exhibition—would work at his museum.

“This is not about putting work in the space,” Frogier said, as Venetian waiters passed out little bowls of grilled octopus. “It’s about making the space a full fantasy.”

This will be Parreno’s first show in China, the first time museum-goers in Shanghai can experience the French artist’s distinct flavor of conceptualism.

Philippe Parreno.WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Philippe Parreno.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

“He’s a key international art figure, and we’re trying to push forward the limits of contemporary art in China,” Frogier said.

Then he led me over to Parreno, who announced that he had a bad cold of some sort, and couldn’t really talk that well. Whispering would have to do.

“I try to make specific exhibitions, so this will be specific to the space,” he said, in a nearly inaudible rasp. “To talk about it in the abstract, well, it’s hard. We’re still in the middle of it.”

Parreno apologized—his voice was plain shot. And then Raza said he was heading next to a party for Marian Goodman (but sans Parreno, who claimed to be just too sick) and I stopped by a party for the new Riga Biennale at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection before meeting him over there. It was also in a nice garden, and the food was by Cipriani. Then I had to go somewhere to write, and my phone was dead again, but I somehow made it to the Bauer by memory. Felt good.

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