June 7 - November 22, 2009
Venice, Italy

53rd International Art Exhibition
At the Nordic and Danish Pavilions:
The Collectors
Not a group show in the conventional sense.

Untitled, 1979, Pencil on paper, 29.8 cm x 40 cm
Courtesy Collection of Daniel Buchholz and Christopher Müller, Cologne

Tom of Finland original artwork will be on display!

The public will be guided on a tour by a real estate agent through a “For Sale” Danish Pavilion, and will be told the story of the Ingmar Bergman-style family dramas that used to haunt this house. A long swimming pool will lead the visitors to the neighbouring Nordic Pavilion – a flamboyant bachelor’s pad. Inside they will encounter the domestic remnants of the mysterious Mr. B, and be met by a group of young male hustlers sipping vodka tonics in an environment that could be a case study motif taken from a David Hockney painting.

The Artists
The artists and designers included in the exhibition are:
Thora Dolven Balke, Massimo Bartolini, Hernan Bas, Guillaume Bijl,
Maurizio Cattelan, Elmgreen & Dragset, Pepe Espaliú, Tom of Finland,
Simon Fujiwara, Han & Him, Laura Horelli, Martin Jacobson, William E. Jones, Terence Koh, Jani Leinonen, Klara Lidén, Jonathan Monk,
Nico Muhly, Norway Says, Henrik Olesen, Nina Saunders,
Vibeke Slyngstad, Sturtevant and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Commissioner’s Statement:

On the occasion of the 53rd International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, the Nordic and Danish Pavilions will collaborate with a project curated by artists’ duo Elmgreen & Dragset. The project was initiated by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, the hosting organization for the Nordic Pavilion in 2009, and the Danish Arts Council’s Committee for International Visual Arts, commissioners of their respective pavilions, with the intention to create a ‘transnational neighbourhood’ within the Giardini, an exhibition context traditionally dedicated to national representation.

The appointment of Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset as curators was the logical result of this attempt to construct a common space within the Giardini because their joint work as artists has been characterised until today by an exploration of both public and private space, and the uses, scenographies and power relations that are at play within them.

The curators have responded to this idea with an exhibition that, under the title The Collectors, offers an allegorical stage set where two interrelated fictional portraits are presented, each in connection to one of the two pavilions. Through this setting, the particular and personal of the individuals portrayed is set in contrast to the wider, open landscape of the Venice Biennale, in an exploration of the increasingly porous realms of the private and the public.

Curatorial Statement:

Together with a selection of invited international artists, Elmgreen & Dragset will transform the existing architecture of the Danish and Nordic Pavilions into domestic settings, and invite the audience to be guests in a domestic ambience. Here, dining rooms and bedrooms, furniture, fireplaces, a stained glass skylight and the artworks nestled within the households will reveal the uncanny stories of various fictional inhabitants, their obsessive characters and their diverse lifestyles.

As the title of the show indicates, the curators will approach the topic of collecting, and the psychology behind the practice of expressing oneself through physical objects. Why do we gather items and surround ourselves with them in our everyday lives? Which mechanisms of desire trigger our selection?

The selected artworks, alongside the interior design, kitchenware, clothing and even a collection of flies, will compose the complex narratives of this double exhibition. Through the house décor and the collection of artworks, the garments in the wardrobes, the porcelain in the kitchen and the books in the library, the identities of the fictional inhabitants, their passions and melancholy, will emerge piece by piece.

The Collectors is not a group show in the conventional sense.

The pavilions will undergo a radical reconstruction, and more than twenty artists and designers of all ages, ranging from established to emerging ones, will contribute to creating a different kind of exhibition format, one that will appear closer to a film set than a conventional art display. The curators aim to establish a unique atmosphere of intimacy with their staged exhibition – one that can run counter to the official spectacle and formal nature of the Biennale – and, in close collaboration with the participating artists and designers, they hope to circumvent all the usual competitive aspects of the larger art event.

The Nordic and Danish Pavilions
The exhibition will be open Tuesday through Sunday, as well as Monday, June 8,
and Monday, November 16. Opening hours 10.00 AM - 6.00 PM.

Giardini Pubblici, 30122 Venice, Venice (Veneto), Italy · Map

The Nordic and Danish Pavilions Website

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“…I named what I thought was an enormous sum. Without blinking an eye, he gathered up my life work and handed me the amount I asked for: $70… I didn’t expect more. Remember that homosexuality was forbidden in most of the Western world; so all those businesses were illegal, black market. I knew that they wouldn’t have paid me more anyway — or so I believed then.”
— Tom of Finland