2009 June 4

Smoke on the Water

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(VENICE) Art world elites descended upon the resplendent gothic Palazo Pissani Moretti last night to honor artist Steve McQueen, featured in Great Britain’s pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Hosts Marian Goodman and Thomas Dane, both of whom represent the artist, made sure the prosecco was flowing and beats were blasting as guests mingled and sashayed against the backdrop of glittery canals and bobbing gondolas.

Despite global economic woes, Goodman remained optimistic. “People seem really enthusiastic about the Biennale," she conceded. Indeed, the New York gallerist has good reason to smile. "It's great to see Steve get the attention he deserves.”

Uncertain times have generated a more interesting atmosphere, explained the Centre Pompidou's curator Christine Macel. “We are more concentrated on work then market discussions,” said Macel. “It’s more...arty.” By the time Pace Wildenstein’s director, Birte Kleemann, arrived, she had already enjoyed a sneak peek at a handful of the event’s biggest pavilions. “It’s a really good start for the Biennale. The main difference is its much more personal. Even the Italian’s exhibit has a much younger feel then in the past.”

German artist and past Turner Prize recipient Wolfgang Tillmans, also featured in this year’s Danish and Nordic pavilion, took in the view from the palace’s second floor balcony as Art Basel co-director Marc Spiegler enjoyed a bit of respite before the Swiss portion of his blockbuster fair launches next week. McQueen, who came to the party with his family in tow, had only one minor suggestion for the decadent soiree: “If we had more people dancing rather then talking, it would be great.”

When the affair deigned to wind down, hordes headed over to the Bauer Hotel, where Stefano Tonchi hosted a party on the terrace attended by Jefferson Hack and Anouck Lepere. Perhaps it was Massimiliano Gioni, co-curator for the New Museum’s Younger then Jesus retrospective, who captured the mood best. “In Venice," he explained, "The water is high, and the dollar is low.”


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