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.”
Nujoom Alghanem is representing the United Arab Emirates with a two-screen film installation titled Passage.
Zhanna Kadyrova, Market, 2017–.
Neïl Baloufa, Global Agreement, 2018–19, which converts gym equipment into video-viewing spaces presenting interviews with soldiers from around the world. Do not be like me and hit your head on the sculpture when standing up.
Danh Vo, All Work, 2009, with work by a variety of collaborators.
Slavs and Tatars has created a handsome, expansive lounge at the end of the Arsenale section of "May You Live in Interesting Times"—an ideal place to kick back, relax, and enjoy . . . pickle juice. (Regrettably, these libations are not yet available.)
Work by Cristian Bendayán, who is representing Peru.
Work by Dineo Seshee Bopape, one of three artists representing South Africa.
İnci Eviner, representing Turkey. Early in the morning, two performers were slowly climbing along the architectural installation. It looked quite painful.
Zahrah Al Ghamdi for Saudi Arabia.
Mark Justiniani for the Philippines.
Charming, irresistible tempera-on-paper works by Nandalal Bose from 1937–38 in India's group show.
Eva Rothschild representing Ireland.
Mariana Telleria, representing Argentina.
Paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye in a group show for Ghana's first-ever pavilion.
Daiga Grantiņa, representing Latvia.
Anna K. E., representing Georgia.
Enrico David works in Italy's three-person pavilion.
Joël Andrianomearisoa for Madagascar's first Venice pavilion.
Fei Jun's Interesting World in China's group show.