Nice Spice Rack - 55th Venice Biennale

by the-biennial-project 20. September 2013 12:33

(Editors note: Not everyone can afford to send a correspondent to the Venice Biennale Opening Week, the biggest and trendiest art event in the world – sort of the Olympics of the art world. But because we truly care about keeping you informed – we sent not just one, but an entire troupe of reporters – all wildly talented writers and artists who rented an enormous villa smack dab in the middle of Venice the better to report on all the action. Over the coming weeks, we will share with you their tales of champagne-soaked art and mayhem. Let the games begin:

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Nice Spice Rack - 55th Venice Biennale

by Kelly Stevens, Chief Biennial Project Art Correspondent

Be memorable or be anonymous. That’s the goal of every artist. Biennale artists are no different, but the stakes are higher in Venice. Over 300,000 art lovers will converge on Venice, Italy this summer to visit the 55th Venice Biennale. Over 150 artists representing 88 countries were selected to show by outfitting massive pavilions with elaborate concepts. It’s a challenge to stand out with each pavilion trumping the next. Artists create that lasting impression with extra sensory experiences to make sure they connect with you. First, an eye popping visual show piece; then a film project for emotion, and finally a hands on element to get you involved. This menu has become de rigueur at national art shows, but most artists’ work stimulates only 3 of the 5 senses; sight, sound, and touch. Taste and smell get left to The Food Network. But at this year’s Biennale, my two neglected senses got a rare whiff of attention.

Inside the bunker like pavilion of Latin America, Bolivian artist Sonia Falcone’s exhibit “Fields of Color” is a large spice rack containing dozens of delicately sculpted foot high cones of exotic spices seated atop flat clay terrines. One gust of wind and the entire installation blows away. I held my breath, but not my nose. The beauty of it alone was a lush artistic visual, but oh, the scent... The aroma of smoky cumin, pleasant nutmeg and sweet cinnamon gave me a warm feeling of that early morning market magic before the selling begins.

If a smell can change your mood, it can certainly transport you to another era. By using spices as art, Falcone gave a nod to a time when Venice was the hub of the spice trade, when the spices which lay before me would be more valuable than diamonds. Imagine paying your rent in black pepper. But the addition of smell gave it a deeper dimension. I could smell the history as the fragrance hasn’t changed in eight hundred years. The richness of curry powder and paprika, the crushed cardamom, cilantro and black pepper represented the colors and tastes of the people of the world. It seemed fitting that I was at this international show looking at this artistic spice rack with people from Asia to the Middle East, South America to Africa, all sniffing a shared aroma in our own language. It was as if were at a dinner table, seated together, having been served a fine meal. Now that is memorable.

by Kelly Stevens, Chief Biennial Project Art Correspondent

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