VENICE.- Curator Philipp Kaiser has invited artists Carol Bove and Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler to show their work in the exhibition «Women of Venice» at the Pavilion of Switzerland. With the project Kaiser aims to explore Alberto Giacomettis 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 from the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Set in the Pavilion of Switzerland, which was built in 1952 by Albertos brother, the renowned architect Bruno Giacometti, it features new work by Carol Bove and Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler created specifically for the Biennale Arte 2017 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 Switzerlands contributions to the Venice Biennale 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.
At the Biennale Arte 2017, the Swiss American artist duo Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler present their double-sided 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 re-imagine Flora Mayos life and work, also giving voice to her previously unknown son. «Flora» is structured as an interwoven conversation between two sides a mother and son; Los Angeles and Paris; 2016 and 1927 and is presented in the large room of the pavilion. In the adjoining graphic cabinet space, Hubbard / Birchler present a second work, «Bust», a reconstruction and re-imagination of Flora Mayos destroyed bust of Giacometti, which owes its survival solely to a lost photograph. Giacomettis and Mayos relationship and their ensuing portrait busts reflect the creative energy generated by their collaborative artistic activity and also shed light on Alberto Giacomettis early life.
Carol Bove represents the second artistic position featured at the Swiss Pavilion. The Geneva-born American artists work raises issues of theatricality and autonomy. For the Swiss Pavilion exhibition, Bove takes Giacomettis figurative constellations as a starting point, tracing their relational forces. As a response to Alberto Giacomettis historic absence from the Swiss Pavilion, she creates a new group of seven sculptures, «Les Pléiades», presented in the courtyard of the Swiss Pavilion referring to the artists late figurative work. Bove is interested in how the verticality and physicality of Giacomettis figures explore the essence of sculpture. Her new works engage sculptural vocabularies through both material specificity and eclecticism, loosely referencing some of Giacomettis well-known figural groupings such as «Forest» and «Femmes de Venise». In conversation with these, two additional sculptures by Bove voluminously occupy the sculpture hall and address the notion of presence in correspondence with their architectural surroundings.
Alberto Giacometti is without doubt one of the most influential Swiss artists of the 20th century. This makes his absence from the Venice Biennale all the more surprising. 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 «Femmes 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.