2019 Venice Biennale

Touring the Venice Biennale, Part 1: The Arsenale

Anicka Yi’s Biologizing the Machine (tentacular trouble), 2019, in “May You Live in Interesting Times” in the Arsenale.


The Venice Biennale has officially begun. On Tuesday morning, Ralph Rugoff’s main exhibition, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” swung open its doors, along with dozens of national pavilions in the sylvan Giardini, the historical base of the show, and the Arsenale, the dockyards that helped build Venice’s empire. All of the roughly 80 artists in Rugoff’s show have work in both locations, in sections he has christened “Proposition A” and “Proposition B.” I started with A.

It’s too soon for a review, so here are a few notes and a boatload of photos. Rugoff has divided up the sizable Arsenale in several places with raw wood, making it almost labyrinthine at times. For the most part, it works. Artists have ample space to breathe, and many gone large with their works. A few wall labels were missing, but by midday a trusty team of workers had affixed most of them, meaning that the Biennale is ready to roll. Below, a look around the Arsenale. Unless a country is noted, the images are from the central show, “May You Live in Interesting Times.”

[See Part 2 of this slideshow, which features work in the Giardini.]

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