At last—Venice. For the first time since 2019, La Biennale is on view in the Most Serene Republic.
Cecilia Alemani, the chief curator of High Line Art in New York, is at the helm of this, the 59th edition, and she has organized a central exhibition that is a feast of breathtaking proportions. Titled “The Milk of Dreams,” after a children’s book by the artist Leonora Carrington, it includes 213 artists across the show’s two traditional locations, the Central Pavilion and the Arsenale.
The vast majority of them identify as female or gender-nonconforming—a thrilling change of pace. There are young guns, revered veterans, and historical figures (famous and obscure), many of the latter tucked into five historical sections through which Alemani charts the themes of her endeavor.
Surrealist energies course through the show, and bodies are everywhere—fantastical, disfigured, augmented, mechanized, mythological, objectified, and monumental. This is art that embodies resilience, and that knows the alchemical power of stories, and dreams, and even a bit of escapism through spectacle (or sex).
A fertile-smelling mound of soil by Delcy Morelos emanates the scents of cocoa powder and tobacco, tortured but tough organs by Mire Lee secrete frightening liquids, and sugarcane grows in a seductive environment by Precious Okoyomon. A hard-won and by no means naïve optimism reigns. These are difficult times, the exhibition seems to say, but there have been difficult times before, and artists keep going.
Below, a first look through the exhibition.