Franco-German "Exchange" Taken Literally at Venice Biennale

Jun 4, 2013

The mother of all art biennials has been good for many surprises in the course of its 110-year history.

55th Venice Biennale Enlarge image Susanne Gaensheimer, curator of the German pavillion, stands before the French pavillion on May 30, 2013 in Venice. Germany and France have swapped their pavilions for this year's Venice Biennale and use them as a platform for international artists. (© picture alliance / dpa) In 2013 Germany’s contribution, curated by Susanne Gaensheimer, has two irritations to offer: Visitors who enter the high hall with the Germania sign on it will be confronted by France‘s selection for the global art show. And vice versa, visitors to the neo-classical French pavilion will see a selection of artistic positions chosen by the Director of the Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art (MMK).

Following her great success in 2011, Gaensheimer is Germany’s Biennale Commissioner for the second time. She is against a rigid interpretation of the national pavilion concept: “You have to see national representation as an open format.”

The museum director therefore agreed to take the risk of exchanging pavilions with France. 2013 offered the foreign ministries in Berlin and Paris an important anniversary on which to implement this idea: German-French friendship was sealed 50 years ago with the signing of the Élysée Treaty.

55th Venice Biennale 2013 Enlarge image Visitors wait in front of the French pavillion for the 55th Venice Biennale 2013 in Venice on May 30. 'La Biennale di Venezia 2013' opened to the public on June 1, 2013. (© picture alliance / dpa) The German curator’s transnational approach of including the “other” is not limited to switching premises. Susanne Gaensheimer has selected four artists who are associated with Germany but have different nationalities.

The German contribution is being designed by the South African photographic artist Santu Mofokeng, a former scholarship holder of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and his renowned Indian colleague Dayanita Singh, who gave her first exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin.

55th Venice Biennale -  French pavilion Enlarge image Romuald Karmakar's video installation 'Hamburger Lektion' is exhibited in the "French" pavilion, this year hosting the German contribution to the Biennale in Venice. (© picture alliance / dpa) Also involved are German-born filmmaker Romuald Karmakar, son of a French mother and an Iranian father, and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose decisive international breakthrough began with his participation in the documenta in Kassel in 2007.

“All four focus on breaking down ideas of identity,” Gaensheimer explains, adding that this is the real subject of the exhibition.

German Contribution to the 55th International Art Exhibition


Visual Arts & Design

Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein © picture-alliance / HB-Verlag

From Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer and 19th-century romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich to the expressionists of the early 20th century and the multi-faceted approach to the arts initiated by the legendary Bauhaus, Germany has an extraordinarily rich artistic tradition. It doesn't, however, end there!