The Venice Art Biennale has now been running for more than 100 years and is often regarded as the Olympics of the Art World. It is the time when different countries from all over the world have a chance to show to the rest of the world art by some of their most exciting artists and it is a stark reminder how small the international art world really is. Collectors, critics, museum directors, gallerists, artists, art aficionados and A-Z list celebrities jostle against each other in endless queues for the most hyped exhibitions, performances and “happening’ parties.  For many people, the Biennale is just another glamorous international event and a place to be “seen”, but for artists, its one of the most important and high profile international platforms for their work and can enable a mid-level artist’s career to literally soar overnight.

After reflecting on the dozens of exhibitions and projects we saw during the inaugural week, we’ve opted to pick out five which made a real impact...


A multi-dimensional exhibition in Venice, co-curated by Flora Fairbairn and James Putnam

13 May – 26 November

In the intimate 16th Century Church of San Gallo, just yards from St Mark’s Square, is Paul Benney’s Speaking in Tongues exhibition.  A sound and visual feast which represents the culmination of many months of planning and collaboration fuelled by Benney’s creativity and vision. 

On entering the church, the visitor is transported into another world. Accompanied by a powerful holosonic landscape of sound, each of the 12 characters in the 3.5m painting recount intimate life-changing moments. The experience transports one into a reflective oasis and a mesmerising moment of calm and it can feel as if you have stepped into the painting, or that the characters have stepped out. As the visitor moves around the church, the hushed murmuring sound that one had encountered on arrival, is transformed into a clear stream of personal monologues, that one-by-one, seem to reverberate through one’s own head. 

The exhibition, picked as a highlight of the 2017 Venice Biennale in The FT's How to Spend It, has been a joy to work on. The outstanding reviews have been an added bonus to the pleasure of working with a brilliant team and a multitude of fantastic supporters. 

The Venice Biennale has been described as a ravishing carousel of international art, where no two people see the same Biennale, as there is so much to see.  It's an amazing experience to be immersed within thousands of exhibits dotted all over Venice, and the glowing reports from visitors experiencing Paul Benney’s exhibition has made the 2017 Biennale all the more magical.

Posted by Flora Fairbairn

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