56th Venice Biennale: Australian Pavilion summary - Art Collector

The Australian Pavillion unveiled at the 56th Venice Biennale

Art Collector contributor Helen McKenzie gives her thoughts on the Australian Pavilion sector at the 56th Venice Biennale.

Architect John Denton says the new Australian Pavilion for the Venice
Biennale was first imagined set in the outback of central Australia – an
interesting exercise for a structure that would end up in a most European
setting: a lush green garden beside a canal. Perhaps it is the idea of
transplanting – much of early Australian architecture was transplanted
from distant places, however now it’s right back at you, with a building Denton says is "proud, confident, different and not seeking approval".

Indeed, there were some very proud Australians at the opening of the first new permanent pavilion of the 21st century, which joins an elite group of 29 other countries with permanent pavilions. Officially opening the building, Arts Minister George Brandis said it was "an emphatic statement of Australia's cultural confidence, that will grace these gardens as long as the Venice Biennale exists."

Also on hand to launch the new Aussie pad was Cate Blanchett, who caused a proper paparazzi response when she took to the microphone. Loud clicking of cameras almost drowned out her official job of thanking the 80 plus wealthy Australian families who had funded the exercise, which Blanchett described as "a space for audiences to marvel at the creative genius of Australians".

It was a hands-on kind of opening, with actor Rachel Griffiths rounding up
people to stand under the eaves for the viewing of the lighting of the smoking ceremony and William Barton on the didgeridoo. Chair of the Australia Council Rupert Myer said the smoking ceremony “was a traditional Australian blessing from the oldest living culture on earth".

Inside the granite-clad, concrete and steel structure was a prolific
artistic response from Fiona Hall. Jam-packed with a thousand individual
works, moodily presented in a museum format, Hall's Wrong Way Time
exhibition is evocative, with many Indigenous and colonial references
transplanted here in Venice.

Helen McKenzie

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