The Olympics of art, the 56th Venice Biennale, opened this month. Always provocative, this century old festival is the most prestigious contemporary art celebration in the world. Eighty five invited nations take part by unveiling works in pavilions and exhibition spaces around the city. Canada’s presentation, in the Giardini di Castello, comes from the artist-collective BGL of Quebec City, who turned the tiny Canadian pavilion into a dépanneur (corner store for the rest of Canada), a wink to the working artist’s need for a sideline to survive.
It felt more reminiscent of Saturday-night lineups on the night’s last cigarette run than your average wander-in corner-store experience. But then again, nothing is average in Venice. Half cheeseball amusement park, half natural splendour, the city is a befitting location for this work, which is so thoroughly and distractingly amusing while, at its essence, making a biting statement about the moneyed art scene it serves.
Forgot to buy your ticket to Venice? Me too.
We can console ourselves with Outings, also an international initiative, but one that involves “freeing” anonymous figures from historical art to street art. Now appearing in more than a dozen cities around the world, these works, from digital prints pasted with transparent wallpaper glue, are meant to bring art to neglected corners of cities. Anyone can participate so get busy. Here’s how.
San Francisco artist George Zisiadis designs for the streets too. His latest, “Bench Go Round” re-imagines boring city benches to create real connection and play between strangers. I vote for these to dot all our Toronto streets and send cell phones flying to the curb.
Here in Toronto, a giant photographic mural has been installed at the waterfront that transforms a dull city block into a stunning image. Canadian artist Sarah Anne Johnson used both photography and painting to create Best Beach, mounted on the west side of the Westin Harbour Castle at the foot of Bay Street.This brilliant initiative, on view for the next two years, comes thanks to lead sponsor, Partners in Art, who teamed up with StreetARTToronto and the Contact Photography Festival. Kudos to all. More please.
Not inspired yet? Try making your own spectacular mural in this Toronto funhouse.
Grab some chalk. The sidewalks are waiting.