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Hectic art-fair season begins with Biennale

June 09, 2007|From the Associated Press

The world's oldest and most prestigious contemporary art fair opens Sunday in Venice, Italy, kicking off what promises to be the European art season of the decade as four premier events align in an unusual convergence that is generating extraordinary buzz.

After this weekend's opening of the 52nd Venice Biennale, three other events kick off in quick succession over the following week: Art Basel in Switzerland; Documenta in Kassel, Germany; and the Muenster Sculpture Project, also in Germany.

It's all creating lots of excitement and hurried travel since only rarely do the major art fair cycles coincide: Art Basel is held every year, Venice every two years, Documenta every five years and Muenster every decade.

In its 120-year history, the Venice Biennale has advanced art discourse by presenting to the public such notables as Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso and the Pop Art movement. Recent editions have drawn several hundred thousand people to the lagoon exhibit spaces over five months.

Each edition of the Biennale is unique, reflecting the choices of the curator of the main international exhibition. This year, the job has fallen to American curator and critic Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art and former painting and sculpture curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is among only a handful of non-Italians to be given the honor.

Storr's exhibition unites about 100 artists in what many observers who've seen the show in previews have described as a more unified museum approach to the Biennale, known for its sometimes chaotic attempt to showcase fresh art, often by young, emerging artists.

Storr has for the first time put an African Pavilion in the main Aresenale venue in a move to draw attention to significant African art events, including the traveling Remix exhibition of African art. He also tapped 71-year-old Malian photographer Malick Sidibe as this year's winner of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, making it the first time a photographer has won the honor.

Besides the international exhibit, this year's Biennale also will include a record 77 national pavilions featuring art chosen and presented by the participating nations, mostly in Venice's Giardini. The pavilions are one of the attractions that make the Venice Biennale unique.

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