Curator Philipp Kaiser has invited artists Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler and Carol Bove to show their work in the exhibition «Women of Venice» at the Pavilion of Switzerland at the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. With the project Kaiser aims to explore Alberto Giacometti’s absence in the history of the Swiss Pavilion. During his lifetime, Giacometti declined all requests for him to exhibit his work there.
The exhibition «Women of Venice» refers to the little known absence of Alberto Giacometti at the Biennale di Venezia. Set in the Pavilion of Switzerland, which was built in 1952 by Alberto’s brother, the renowned architect Bruno Giacometti, it will feature new work by Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler and Carol Bove created specifically for the Biennale di Venezia in reference to the legacy and universe of Alberto Giacometti. Philipp Kaiser, nominated as curator of the Swiss Pavilion by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, outlines his concept as follows: «The exhibition ‘Women of Venice’ aims to reflect on the history of the Pavilion and Switzerland’s contributions to the Biennale di Venezia from a contemporary perspective, and to initiate new work, specific to this context.» With the exhibition, Kaiser intends to explore concepts of national identity as well as issues of cultural policy.
Film installation “Flora”
Over the past years, the artist duo Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler have used a documentary approach to delve into the archaeology of film. At the Biennale di Venezia, they will present their film installation «Flora», based on discoveries made in the course of their research on the largely unknown American artist Flora Mayo who studied in Paris in the 1920s, at the same time as Giacometti, and who was his lover. By weaving together fictional and documentary material, Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler both reconstruct and re-imagine Flora Mayo’s life and work, also giving voice to her previously unknown son. Giacometti’s and Mayo’s relationship and their ensuing portrait busts reflect the creative energy generated by their collaborative artistic activity and also shed light on Alberto Giacometti’s early life.
Carol Bove represents the second artistic position to be featured at the Swiss Pavilion. The Geneva-born, American artist’s work raises issues of theatricality and autonomy. With her installations and sculptural arrangements, she conjures up discursive, yet veiled connections and, with a lightness of touch, explores the vocabulary of sculpture. For the Swiss Pavilion exhibition, Bove takes Giacometti’s figurative constellations as a starting point, tracing their relational forces. As a response to AlbertoGiacometti’s historic absence from the Swiss Pavilion, she will create a new group of sculptures referring to the artist’s late figurative work.
No appropriation by any state
Alberto Giacometti is without doubt one of the most influential Swiss artists of the 20th century. This makes his absence from the Biennale di Venezia all the more surprising. In fact, Giacometti, who lived in Paris, was repeatedly requested to represent Switzerland in Venice – a request that the artist regularly declined. From an early age, Alberto Giacometti, who was born in Borgonovo in the Canton of Grisons, saw himself as an international artist and refused to be defined through a national identity. Even when his brother, the architect Bruno Giacometti, built the new Swiss Pavilion in 1952 and Alberto was asked to show there, he graciously turned the invitation down and suggested another artist instead. In 1956, he finally consented to put on display a group of plaster figures entitled «Femme de Venise» in the French Pavilion. As a form of international recognition for his oeuvre, he was awarded the Grand Prix for Sculpture in Venice in 1962, a few years before his death.
- Carol Bove. Photo by Andreas Laszlo Konrath Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London
- Portrait of Teresa Hubbard : Alexander Birchler Courtesy the Artists and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, Vera Munro Gallery, Hamburg.