8 Must-See Pavilions at the 2017 Venice Biennale

The 57th International Art Exhibition is now open. Here are 8 pavilions you can't miss at the big event.

Anne Imhof Faust
Image by Neven Allgeier


“Faust” by Anne Imhof
Curated by Susanne Pfeffer

Any self-respecting listicle about this year’s must-see pavilions would be remiss not to mention Anne Imhof. In addition to winning the 2017 Absolut Art Award, the German artist is also the recipient of Venice’s top prize – the Golden Lion for best national pavilion. This came as no surprise to anyone who attended last week’s press preview, and it felt as if all of Venice was waiting in the massive queue outside of her show. Inside, Imhof’s band of Balenciaga modelling performers, alongside a pack of Doberman pinschers, wandered about the space in a performance that references power dynamics in today’s tech-obsessed society.

#FriezeFilm artist Rachel Maclean is representing Scotland at the 57th Venice Biennale, on view until 27 November. ——– "A ‘dark Venetian fairy tale’ is how Rachel Maclean describes her new video Spite Your Face (2017), a raunchy, hilarious allegory at the Scottish Pavilion. The work – filled with hook-beaked masks, wilful children and a gold-plated everything – is a 37-minute-long looping video in which a Pinocchio-like character, named Pic, tells lies, grows a nose, becomes a demagogue (‘truth is smelly!’ he shouts)… The works sound heavy-handed but their slapstick is hilarious, and examines the possibilities of digital video to comment on authenticity, truth, falsehood and ‘post-truth’ politics in a manner that feels fresh and comical.” –@frieze_magazine ——— Pictured: Rachel Maclean, Spite Your Face, 2017, installation view, Scotland + Venice. Commissioned by Alchemy Film & Arts in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh. Courtesy: Scotland + Venice; photograph: Patrick Rafferty ——— #venicebiennale #friezeartfair #scottishpavilion #rachelmaclean @rachelannamaclean

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“Spite Your Face” by Rachel Maclean
Curated by Alchemy Film & Arts in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh

Playing on today’s political landscape of alternative facts and corporate greed, “Spite Your Face” is a remake of the classic Italian tale of Pinocchio. The film shows inside the dimly lit Chiesa di Santa Caterina in Cannaregio, a space that suits Maclean’s high-contrast, gilded-in-gold animation to a T. Although some scenes prove uncomfortable at times (with one particularly hard-to-watch rape scene), the 30-minute feature is well worth the trek outside of the Biennale’s main exhibition areas.

South Korea Cody Choi
Image by Neven Allgeier

South Korea

“Counterbalance: The Stone and the Mountain” by Cody Choi and Lee Wan
Curated by Lee Daehyung

With neon signage advertising free orgasms, it’s hard to walk past the Korean pavilion without even a little curiosity. Though the promise is an empty one (unless…), Lee Wan’s “Proper Time” is a must-see for sure. For his work, Wan has filled a room with 600 clocks, each adjusted to highlight the amount of time different individuals with varying professions must work before they can afford a meal in their respective locale.

Israel Gal Weinstein
Image by Neven Allgeier


“Sun Stand Still” by Gal Weinstein
Curated by Tami Katz-Freiman

Greeting visitors at this two-story pavilion is the unmistakable scent of coffee, which was used to create an installation depicting a bird’s-eye-view of the Jezreel Valley. Throughout the Biennale’s 6 month run, the installation will mould, inviting a smell that’s decidedly less pleasant to fill the space.


“The Absence of Paths”
Curated by Lina Lazaar

Comprising three separate issuing locations scattered across Venice, “The Absence of Paths” is an interactive performance that raises questions surrounding human migration, national identity and the concept of a state. Each kiosk is manned by Tunisian refugees who issue imitation visas referred to as freesas – a document which aims to “endorse a philosophy of universal freedom of movement without the need for arbitrary state-based sanction.”


“Out of Controll in Venice” by Egill Sæbjörnsson
Curated by Stefanie Böttche

Egill Sæbjörnsson has given two trolls named Ugh and Bõögâr free reign over the Icelandic pavilion. Projected on walls at a towering height of 118 feet tall, the duo invite visitors to a cup of coffee inside their immersive world of fantasy. Located all the way on the Venetian island of Giudecca, this pavilion is a head scratcher that’s worth visiting if only to ask yourself “wait, what?”

Mark Bradford USA
Image by Neven Allgeier

United States of America

“Tomorrow is Another Day” by Mark Bradford
Curated by Christopher Bedford

Tackling social justice and America’s dismal political situation, Mark Bradford primarily explores these themes through abstract paintings and sculptures. Prior to reaching the pavilion’s exit, however, viewers are shown a video of a black man sashaying away from the camera. This work, a re-enactment of Marilyn Monroe’s final scene in “Niagara”, serves as an exploration of race, gender and sexuality.

Phyllida Barlow
Image by Neven Allgeier


“Folly” by Phyllida Barlow
Curated by Harriet Cooper and Delphine Allier

A reference to both the ornamental, frivolous architecture element as well as the sense of foolish, “Folly” consists of countless towering sculptures. In keeping with all previous works, Phyllida Barlow has almost exclusively utilised inexpensive materials including concrete, cardboard and fabric.


The 57th International Art Exhibition is on display in Venice until 26 November 2017

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