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Venice Biennale diary: dancing strippers and inflatable targets

19 June 2013

Jeremy Deller throws a raucously drunken party; Marc Quinn's blow-up Alison Lapper is in the critics' crosshairs, while money grows on trees
The opening of Jeremy Deller's British pavilion for the Venice Biennale was celebrated with a big, raucous party on the Isola delle Vignole: lethal cocktails and dinner followed by dancing to the wonderful Melodians Steel Band, who also provide the soundtrack of Bowie, A Guy Called Gerald, and Vaughan Williams in the film in Deller's show.

One young lad was having such a great time he stripped off his kit and danced on the tables naked.
"Who is that?" people kept asking, in a state of mild shock. Two theories emerged: one that he was part of the Austrian Gelitin artists' collective; the other that he was part of the posse from Palazzo Peckham (a biennale project run by young artists from south-east London). Either way, everyone relaxed about the display of flesh and bits when it was revealed as possible Art with a capital A.
There is good news, by the way, for those who are intrigued by Deller's pavilion but can't get to it before it closes on 24 November. The exhibition will – a first for UK presentations in Venice – be restaged in Britain, starting in January at the William Morris Gallery in London and then travelling to Bristol and Margate.

Out on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore there's a vast sculpture: a version of Marc Quinn's Alison Lapper Pregnant, the sculpture that adorned the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2005. Back then we loved it. Here? Not so much: it's a horrible shade of mauve, is ridiculously over-scale, and looks deeply jarring beside Palladio's great church. Since it's inflatable, various artworld wags have been plotting how to shoot a dart into its side and watch it flobber down like a great big burst balloon.

The 35-year-old British painter Lynette Biadom-Boakye is having quite the year. She has been shortlisted for the Turner prize; she has a beautiful room of her paintings (all imaginary portraits of black subjects) included in the central Venice Biennale exhibition; and this week, also in Venice, she was awarded the Future Generation Art Prize, bankrolled by Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk. The cheque for will be a comfort if she misses out on the Turner this December – she gets $100,000 (£66,000), though $40,000 (£26,000) of it must be spent on art production costs (that's a heck of a lot of paint and canvas, by my reckoning). That compares with £25,000 prize money for the British award.

There are lots of trees in the Biennale this year. The Belgian pavilion consists of a corporeal hulk of a felled elm by Berlinde de Bruyckere; in the Nordic pavilion the trees sing courtesy of Finnish artist Terike Haapoja; and in the Latvian pavilion a huge tree branch suspended from the roof swings like a giant twiggy pendulum. For its first ever Venice pavilion, Kosovo is showing a work by Petrit Halilaj that is not so much a tree as a giant, earth-perfumed root ball, or giant-sized bird's nest – put together painstakingly by the artist over a period of two months using soil, mud, branches and twigs brought from the young republic. The original Yugoslavia pavilion in Venice's Giardini – a place redolent of the geopolitics of a past age – is run by Serbia.

Author: Charlotte Higgins
Source: The Guardian (United Kingdom)