The 54th is not the best of Venice Biennales, nor the worst. It must be the biggest ever.
True, there is sometimes a local accent. For example, the Saudi Pavilion shows “The Black Arch” by the sisters Raja and Shadia Alem, a striking work that fuses lights, mirrors, moving projection and music in a modern fashion and with a nod to Islamic art of the past.
The big point, more obvious with every Biennale, is that modern art — which only a few decades ago was a largely Western fad — is now a pan-global language.
Another theme is the alliance between contemporary art and modern merchant princes. Roman Abramovich’s black mega-yacht was in town, docked near the Biennale gardens and surrounded by a security fence. The billionaire French businessman Francois Pinault, now de facto the modern art Doge of Venice, gave the grandest and most stylish party (in the cloisters of San Giorgio Maggiore).
Pinault’s two substantial museums, at the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, are nonetheless slightly outshined by the Fondazione Prada, which opened a Venetian headquarters at the 18th century Ca’Corner della Regina.