The Venice Biennale Nordic Pavilions: Opening speech
Your Excellencies and friends of art,
The beautiful city of Venice is tempting to visit at any time - and even more so in the context of the Venice Biennale, referred to as «the mother of all biennales». So it is with great joy – and expectation – I return to Venice, to the 53rd Biennale to inaugurate this exhibition at the Danish and Nordic Pavilions called «The Collectors».
«The Collectors» by Elmgreen and Dragset is a Nordic project, but it is also a project that draws on the work of artists from many countries. The project crosses borders and it departs from a dialogue between architecture and art - and more specifically - of the domestic and the public.
24 international artists have contributed – from those still very early in their professional careers to well known masters. Together they have created an internal landscape to transform each pavilion into a special home – each with its own respective aura and ambience. Although we experience these places as private interiors, the scale of the project leads us to reflect upon important questions - questions such as what is it within each and everyone of us that draws us to any particular work of art? What is the magical property that ignites the desire within to collect art and to fill our daily lives with art both on a private and a public level?
Art – obviously – can give us the pleasure of sublime beauty, but that is but one aspect of art. Art in all its forms is also there to fascinate, challenge, provoke and raise questions. Great art will never leave us indifferent. Great art will open our eyes.
The Venice Biennale 2009 sets a record with 77 national exhibitions, displaying to the world the astonishing variety of contemporary art. Indeed something to intrigue all lovers of modern art and architecture – if only there were enough time to see everything this Biennale has to offer - both in the Giardini, the Arsenale and other venues .
Elmgreen and Dragset's work for this exhibition is set here in these pavilions in the lovely Giardini which in itself represents an entire history of exhibition, spanning over one hundred years.
The role of architecture in Elmgreen and Dragset’s work is also an important tribute to the architect Sverre Fehn who designed the Nordic Pavilion. He was "one of the master architects of the world" to quote the jury awarding Fehn the 1997 Pritzker Architecture Prize. He is noted to have said: “I strive to make a building that will make people more aware of the beauty of the setting”.
His approach was to create an environment that is both contemporary and rooted in history. In this tradition of new regionalism he is joined by other Nordic architects such as Finland’s Alvar Alto, Denmark’s Jørn Utzon, and Sigurd Lewerentz from Sweden.
It appears that in “The collectors”, the artists, the curators and the organizers have held this idea close to their hearts and minds. And they have done so with playfulness, irony and a great sense of autonomy.
I know you will all join me when I express my congratulations to every one who has contributed to the realization of this joint project and especially to the commissioners the Danish Art Council and the Office for Contemporary Art Norway.
With these words, I declare the Danish and Nordic Pavilions open.