History comes easily to Venice. But if, like me, you need a compelling reason to visit this overhyped tourist trap, the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale, begun in 1895, could provide it. We recall the previous edition for its controversies (Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel converted an unused Catholic church into a mosque) and its parties (Feroze Gujral’s being the most talked about), besides the Gujral Foundation’s pathbreaking project My East Is Your West featuring artists Rashid Rana and Shilpa Gupta.
But curator Christine Macel seems intent on bringing the focus back to art – and artists – this time around, with a weekly roundtable that will allow visitors to engage directly with them. The biennale touches the medieval soul of Venice, away from the canals and gondoliers and the arguable splendours of St Mark’s and the mandatory visits to Murano and Burano. Because it is unpredictable and volatile, art makes Venice gracious, a doppelgänger of the city it was before Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp destroyed it for us.