5 Awe-Inspiring National Pavilions at the 57th Venice Biennale

Since 1895, the Venice Biennale has been one of the most celebrated contemporary art festivals in the world. Opening for its 57th session earlier this month, this much-anticipated showcase features avant-garde pieces by hundreds of artists from all over the globe, including such titans as Mark Bradford and Britain’s Phyllida Barlow. Guests can also expect to discover some of the best emerging talents in national pavilions sprinkled all over this stunning Renaissance city. Without further ado, here are the 5 national pavilions that definitely should not be missed.   

ICELANDIC PAVILION

If you are out exploring this gorgeous, fairy tale-esque city, you may notice colossal cartoon trolls hiding among the iconic landmarks. Dubbed Ūgh and Bõögâr, these inventive characters are the creations of Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjörnsson and are the subjects of their very own exhibition at the Icelandic pavilion titled “Out of Controll in Venice.” Also, be sure follow the trolls on their adventures around the city on Instagram @icelandicpavillion.Image via the Icelandic Pavilion

GERMAN PAVILION

Frankfurt-based conceptual artist and choreographer Anne Imhof won the coveted Golden Lion award for “Best Pavilion” this year with her five-hour long solemn dance performance titled “Faust.” This mesmerizing installation allows viewers to watch the performers from above on a raised glass floor. The exhibition drew large crowds with its disquieting tone heightened by roaming dobermans and an eerie soundtrack of chanting voices.Image via Vincenzo Pinto

AMERICAN PAVILION

Renowned Los Angeles-based abstract expressionist Mark Bradford has never been afraid to comment on the times. This MacArthur Fellowship Award-winner often incorporates social themes into his large-scale collages. Here Bradford takes on the country’s political climate with “Tomorrow is Another Day,” an installation resembling a Jeffersonian temple. With plaster peeling off the walls, the pavilion looks as if it’s in ruins. In the central rotunda, visitors will find “Oracle” a site-specific piece which combines Bradford’s signature disintegrating advertisements with the iconography of ancient soothsayers.

“Oracle” by Mark Bradford. Image via the artist and Artsy

BRITISH PAVILION

British sculptor Phyllida Barlow’s massive installation, “Folly” takes up the entire pavilion space with its labyrinthine columns, forests of neon-colored concrete balls, and over-sized abstracts made of concrete and timber. Barlow challenges our notions of sculpture by mixing the playful with the utilitarian. This duality is mirrored in the exhibition’s title and theme, with “folly” being both about merriment and trepidation. Visitors are encouraged to explore this space filled with familiar everyday objects as well as foreboding abstracts. Image via Vincenzo Pinto

ISRAELI PAVILION

Awarded the prestigious Beatrice S. Kolliner Young Israeli Artist Award in 2006, Tel-Aviv-based installation artist Gal Weinstein is currently making waves at the Israeli Pavilion with his cloud-like “Sun Stand Still” project beautifully depicts the chaos of the natural world.

Image via Le Paradox and Gal Weinstein