Observations: Scandinavian show imitates life and death in Venice

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The Independent Culture

With a cast of gigolos sipping vodka cocktails, works on show by some of the world's most high-profile artists, and even a full-length swimming pool, The Collectors installation is set to be a talking point at the art world's most prestigious event, the Venice Biennale (7 June-22 November).

Over 20 international artists and designers will transform the Danish and Nordic pavilions (segregation according to country is a quaint custom of the 114 year-old Biennale) into an outlandish household residence with works of art by Klara Liden of Sweden, German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans and the fetish artist Tom of Finland dotted around bedrooms, fireplaces and dining rooms.

An estate agent will inform visitors to the Danish pavilion of the "Ingmar Bergman-style family dramas that used to haunt this house", says a spokesman. The interconnecting pool then leads to the Nordic space, a bachelor pad owned by a mysterious Mr B where young male hustlers lounge languidly. Kitchenware, clothing, furniture, fireplaces, even a stuffed labrador by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, all reflect the self-indulgent tastes of the unreal inhabitants.

"The Family home in the Danish pavilion is quite Hitchcock inspired while the neighbouring bachelor pad in the Nordic pavilion looks like a mix between Austin Powers's secret holiday pad and the interior motifs from early Hockney paintings," explains the co-curator Michael Elmgreen, one half of the mischievous Scandinavian art duo Elmgreen and Dragset.

Is the project a caustic commentary on the vanity of contemporary art collectors? "We are actually less interested in the market aspects of collecting, more the psychological and socio-cultural reasons for this strange phenomenon. Why do some people collect and surround themselves with objects? It's true that we have a "For Sale" sign outside the Danish pavilion and a dead collector floating in the swimming pool, but these interventions were planned long before the credit crunch. Sometimes reality just keeps up, doesn't it?" says Elmgreen, laughing.

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