Erwin Wurm: Just about Virtues and Vices in General, Austrian Pavilion, Giardini
The highlight of Austria’s three-person presentation was Erwin Wurm’s invitation for visitors to form ‘One Minute Sculptures’. Directed by scribbled notes in marker pen, the public roasted their heads under a pendant lamp, splayed their lower legs through the roof of a caravan, and pushed their heads into the crotch of concrete-filled jeans.

James Richards: Music for the Gift, Wales in Venice, Santa Maria Ausiliatrice
A haunting sound installation, a 43-minute video and graphic works inhabit the five rooms of this 13th century church, echoing off the marble and rolling around the painted ceiling, welcoming you in from the canal. Richards’ new body of work deals unsettlingly with fragile and mirrored fragments; doubling past and present, hidden and visible.

Geta Brătescu: Romanian Pavilion, Giardini
Romania’s presentation of nonogenarian artist Geta Brătescu brings you into the life, mind and studio of her practice. A proliferation of intricate collages and drawings, objects and compositions wend a way through feminism, femininity and interiority. Give it some time.

Selected by Bethan Lloyd Worthington

Koki Tanaka, Viva Arte Viva exhibition, Arsenale
This quiet installation can easily be overlooked amongst the busy display of clever political rhetoric, but it is definitely worth stopping for. Tanaka, who received a Venice Biennale special mention for his 2013 Japan Pavilion exhibition, has delivered a thoughtful yet challenging installation again linked to the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Not a piece that will give you a feeling of intellectual smugness or fuzzy inner-peace, but it can certainly make you aware of your own proximity to the disaster.

Zad Moultaka, Lebanon Pavilion, Arsenale
Located at the far side of the Arsenale, in order to get to this pavilion you need to take a short boat trip across the water. The crossing acts as a prelude to this fantastically theatrical piece. An immersive experience with ancient Lebanese traditional choral music combines with darkness and light in an installation that resonates with the desire to bridge the gap between East and West.

Lee Mingwei, Viva Arte Viva exhibition, Giardini; Arsenale
Unlike many of the interactive and performative works that are on trend this year, Lee’s highly personal approach successfully avoids the pretentiousness that often comes with the territory. The Arsenale installation is a work in progress, with the audience bringing their own clothing to be mended. The format is not dissimilar to that of Marina Abramovic, but Mingwei engages with the audience in a more down to earth manner than the high-priestess of performance art.

Selected by Kaori Homma

Xavier Veilhan: Studio Venezia, French Pavilion, Giardini
A recording studio minus the musicians or a set for a deserted performance? The acoustic space is filled with the sound of analogue instruments and tape echo devices, bubbling away unattended through guitar amplifiers; the physical space is modernist in its clean wooden lines and sharp edges. A place for sonic discovery and play.

George Drivas: Laboratory of Dilemmas, Greek Pavilion, Giardini
The fiction of this piece is centred on a supposed medical discovery lost since the late 1960s – a parable or a state of the nation commentary on Greece’s woes since the crash of 2008? The form is a series of lo-fi recorded interviews with medical researchers, each voice represented by a single speaker in a hall of mirrors installation. As engaging and funny as it was disarming.

James Richards: Migratory Motor Complex (from Music for the Gift), Wales in Venice, Santa Maria Ausiliatrice
A six-channel electroacoustic work in a deconsecrated church. I sat facing the altar as crackles, scratches, distorted tickings and a female voice fragmented and dislocated, skittering around the acoustic space. A subtle and commanding piece, at times overwhelming, at other times softer and mysterious. I could have listened for hours.

Selected by Joseph Young.
Young’s selections focus on sound works, reflecting his own practice as a sound artist 

Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, New Zealand Pavilion, Arsenale
Lisa Reihana reinvents the imperial gaze and Dufour’s colonial 19th century wallpaper, Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique, through referencing journeys of exploration and exploitation. She has created a vast panoramic field which employs 21st century digital animation to reimagine and reposition the so-called Pacific ‘other’ in colonial history. Mesmerising and critically engaged, I found it difficult to leave this work.

Samson Young: Songs for Disaster Relief, Hong Kong in Venice
Samson Young draws visual and sonic connections between myriad aspects, centred on charity disaster singles from the 1980s and their moral and ethical complexities. Composition and collage mark out the sculptural, performance, sonic, and video work, and while research plays an important role here there is a lightness of touch that permeates the installation. The exhibition is curated by Ying Kwok, who for many years was curator at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester.

On Kawara: One Million Years (reading), Oratorio di San Ludovico, Dorsoduro
This installation curated by Ikon Gallery runs until 30 July and sees volunteers read from One Million Years, two sets of volumes that list dates one million years into the future and one million years into the past. Coming across the installation by chance, when I encountered it I was alone in the spartan room of the Oratorio di San Ludovico, with the two readers sitting at a simple white table. The work was both meditative and moving, an intimate and immeasurable reflection on time.

Selected by Gayle Chong Kwan.
Chong Kwan is exhibiting in Venice at Galerie Alberta Pane, Calle dei Guardiani, Dorsoduro, until 29 July

Geoffrey Farmer: A way out of the Mirror, Canada Pavilion, Giardini
The centrepiece of this show is the large, geyser-like fountain that spurts out of a tumbled mess of wooden planks. The water, dripping from the shanty roof above the open space, provocatively challenges the audience to enter into the courtyard to view the other works, cast in bronze and aluminium, at the risk being soaked.

Nathaniel Mellors and Erkka Nissinen: The Aalto Natives, Finland Pavilion, Giardini
Played out through video and animatronic puppet sculptures, this installation tells the story of the creation of a new world modelled on Finland and the subsequent return of the son of the creator to inspect its progress. Through a series of absurd and comic vignettes, the narrative critiques issues of morality, religion, power and progress within contemporary society.

Phyllida Barlow: folly, British Pavilion, Giardini
Treating objects as obstacles, Barlow has filled the gallery to brimming point, with works spilling out of the gallery. The space inside is completely transformed, with sculptures reaching up to the rafters of the building and manipulating the passage of the viewer through the space by forcing them into tight and unexpected corners.

Selected by Jamie Fitzpatrick

Cody Choi and Lee Wan: Counter Balance – The Stone and The Mountain, Korean Pavilion, Giardini
On the exterior of the pavilion Cody Choi’s giant neon sign entices you to take a look. Here I found a confluence of individual voices and lives, a powerful sense of globalisation, shared experiences and national history. In Lee Wan’s work, technology meets paper and historical artefacts to create a sense that we are all similar and that we all have some power. I was particularly moved by the video wall, Made In, and the room of clocks, Proper Time, in which the rate at which the clocks tick is determined by the amount of time it takes for an individual to earn enough to afford a meal.

Lisa Reihana: Emissaries, New Zealand Pavilion, Arsenale
The impressive scale of Lisa Reihana’s in Pursuit of Venus [infected] was created using single-channel ultra-HD video. A monumental, mesmerising, absorbing work that narrates imaginary and real encounters between indigenous people, French explorers and James Cook, the work is continually in motion and we experience vignettes of scenes played by actors on a scenic painted backdrop. Historical, political, beautiful and poignant.

Diaspora Pavilion, International Curators Forum and University of the Arts London (UAL), Palazzo Pisani S. Marina
In traditional Italian homes the kitchen door often has a beaded curtain, and so in honour of its palazzo takeover Susan Pui San Lok excites you with a journey through a deep curtain of gold tapes before you find yourself in Hew Locke’s sea of his suspended boats. With featured artists including AIR Council member Libita Clayton, Larry Achiampong, Ellen Gallagher, and Barbara Walker, the work is mostly site-specific as well as transporting you to a place of difference. A must see.

Selected by Binita Walia

Future Generation Art Prize 2017, Palazzo Contarini Polignac
This year’s Future Generation prize is one of the best I’ve seen. South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape won the prize this year for her symbolically charged earthwork installation but there are lots of other gems in this packed show. Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s graphic works spin 1950s-style illustration into subtle but challenging pictoral works. Vajiko Chachkhiani’s film, Winter Which Was Not There, follows a man in a 4×4 who drags a monumental statue of himself for miles until it shreds to nothing. And in Christian Falsnaes’ Feed, participants are live-streamed responding to directions to create a sensual immersive performative environment.

Philip Guston and the Poets, Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia
To be honest, the ‘poets’ theme doesn’t really get a look in, and neither does the narrative about the importance of Rome and Italy to Guston’s visual language. What does is lots of great painting by an artist who continually challenged himself, and in doing so made some unique work. His comic book oeuvre is deliberately tricky and awkward, but the paint itself is still sensual. Guston scrubs, drags, pulls, and dabs – this isn’t virtuosity, it’s confounded obstinance, and is all the better for it.

Intuition, Palazzo Fortuny
If you see Damien Hirst’s masterpiece, ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ across the Palazzo Grassi, then you have to see this as a counterpart. The Palazzo Fortuny is a quintessential Venice experience. Contemporary, modern and historical artworks delicately curated in beautifully crumbly building over five floors. ‘Intuition’ deals with that most difficult of subjects – the different ways artists pursue the unknown, searching for that which is out of just out of reach. A visual treat.

Shezad Dawood: Leviathan, Palazzina Canonica and Fortuny Factory
Video proliferates at the Venice Biennale, but the one thing lacking in a busy biennale schedule is time. Dawood’s ‘Leviathan’ is one to give time to. Showing two films, some painting and two sculptures, the show is concise and rewarding. Dawood manages to squeeze in Moby Dick, marine biology, oceanography, climate change, evolution, migration and mental health, as well as a story about two people meeting in a fictional post-apocalyptic world.

Selected by Hedley Roberts

Phyllida Barlow: folly, British Pavilion, Giardini
While referencing architectural feats, Phyllida Barlow’s flights of fancy strike me as more contingent and precarious. Each of her assemblages, whether stacked boulders, leaning columns or piled layers, appear as a giant child’s playful balancing gesture. They might stay standing, they might topple, or the capricious child might delight in their destruction with one sweep of its arm.

Geoffrey Farmer: A Way Out of the Mirror, Canada Pavilion, Giardini
A personal and archaeological excavation. At the centre of the dismantled pavilion is a geyser spouting from the old foundations of Castello. Farmer’s accompanying text is a Ginsbergesque fountain with his own fragility at its centre. Past him, past this site rush everything – life, death, past, present, politics, memories – in a connected web that can be glimpsed but not held.

Rachel Maclean:  Spite Your Face, Scotland + Venice, Chiesa di Santa Caterina
An epic story of rise, fall, redemption and condemnation, stuck in a perpetual narrative loop. Pic, the Pinocchio protagonist, encounters hosts of angels, fans and schemers, all played by a prosthetically disguised Maclean. As the narrative unfolds, he finds and loses his innocence in a game in which ‘truth’ and ‘untruth’ are indistinct and interchangeable. A satirical fable that mirrors recent political realities.

Selected by Katharine Fry 

Paul McCarthy and Christian Lemmerz: New Media (Virtual Reality Art), Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore
Provocative, disorientating and fairly gross VR experiences. Pro tip: be wary of eating too much gelato before a: experiencing VR and b: crossing to and from San Giorgio.

Taus Makhacheva, Tightrope, Viva Arte Viva exhibition, Giardini
This wonderful video, Tightrope, sees the descendent of a famous tightrope dynasty ferrying 61 reproduction oil paintings between two mountains. Wonder, anxiety, tension, and beauty at the highest level, it has somewhat struck a chord with my own experience navigating my first Venice Biennale.

Rachel Maclean: Spite Your Face, Scotland + Venice, Chiesa di Santa Caterina
Warped yet all too familiar, Maclean’s newest green screen video work is a fantastical vision of contemporary politics, celebrity and truth telling, which has her 21st century reinterpretation of Pinocchio wanking off his own nose.

Selected by Emily Sparkes

The absence of paths, Tunisian Pavilion, kiosks around Venice
A project that has migration and the reevaluation of our collective humanity at its heart. At kiosks around Venice you are able to receive a travel document called a Freesa. In exchange for your name and your fingerprint you become part of a performance/collective, aiding you to consider a world free of borders.

George Drivas: Laboratory of Dilemmas, Greek Pavilion, Giardini
A narrative video installation based on Aeschylus’ theatre play Iketides, Laboratory of Dilemmas raises issues around persecuting a group of people. Driva’s explores the play through a fictional scientific experiment, presented in video and audio excerpts across a labyrinth installation. The parallels that can be made from this piece are socially and politically complex and current.

Phyllida Barlow: folly, British Pavilion, Giardini
Folly a sculptural installation conceived and created for the building it resides within. Though the pavilion cannot contain Barlow’s work as she utilises every internal and external space available. It feels like Barlow’s career has been leading to this very moment, with every Barlow-esque process and material present and utilised to the maximum, the experience is incredible.

Selected by Shaun Badham

Michal Cole and Elin Onat: Objection, Pavilion of Humanity, Campiello S Vidal
This is a beautiful ‘Pavilion of Humanity’. The powerful pieces fill an entire Venetian home, with each room meticulously presented as a platform for a quiet protest which sends ripples beyond the still waters of the neighbouring canals.

Liliana Porter: Man With Axe, Viva Arte Viva exhibition, Arsenale
This intimate work could easily be missed. It is a well-executed piece with tiny figures representing all of us and the huge impact we’re having on the world through our commercial greed and waste. All cleverly illustrated in this simple installation.

Taus Makhacheva, Tightrope, Viva Arte Viva exhibition, Giardini
This gripping film, although monotonous in nature, had me mesmerised from start to finish. Unlike many video installations, Russian artist Taus Makhacheva manages to balance good cinematography with location and a message about the art world.

Selected by Philippe Handford

The 57th Venice Biennale, 13 May – 23 November 2017.

1. Erwin Wurm, Just about Virtues and Vices in General, 2016 – 2017, Performative One Minute Sculpture, Beitrag Österreich-Pavillon / Contribution Austrian Pavillon, Mixed Media, Caravan, Furniture Pieces, H 245 x B 205 x L 592 cm | H 96 1/2 x B 80 2/3 x L 233 in, Unique. Photo: Eva Würdinger, Copyright: Bildrecht, Vienna 2017
2. Koki Tanaka, Of Walking in Unknown, Installation view, Venice Biennale 2017. Photo: Kaori Homma
3. Xavier Veilhan, French Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2017. Photo: Joseph Young
4. Cody Choi, installation view, exterior of Korean Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2017. Photo: Binita Walia
5. Lisa Reihana, in Pursuit of Venus [infected], 2015-17, installation view, Venice Biennale 2017. Photo: Binita Walia
6. Vajiko Chachkhiani, Winter Which Was Not There, 2017 Video, 9’ 00’’ Co-produced by PinchukArtCentre
7. Phyllida Barlow, folly, Installation view, British Pavilion, Venice, 2017. Photo: Ruth Clark © British Council. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Phyllida Barlow’s British Council commission is at the Biennale Arte 2017 from 13 May to 26 November.
8. Rachel Maclean, Spite Your Face, 2017, digital video (still). Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Alchemy Film & Arts in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh on behalf of Scotland + Venice.
9. The absence of paths, Tunisia Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2017. Photo: Binita Walia via

More on

Phyllida Barlow, folly, Installation view, British Pavilion, Venice, 2017. Photo: Ruth Clark © British Council. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Phyllida Barlow’s British Council commission is at the Biennale Arte 2017 from 13 May to 26 November.

Venice 2017 review: Britain at the Biennale – from Phyllida’s folly to the Diaspora Pavilion


Rachel Maclean, Spite Your Face, 2017, digital video (still). Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Alchemy Film & Arts in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh on behalf of Scotland + Venice.

More news and reviews from this year’s Venice Biennale


a-n Degree Shows Guide 2017