Art review: Venice Biennale - From a gondola, Art UK looks fine and dandy, but is the YBA bubble about to burst?

3.00

 

Venice has always been a city for showing off, so it's been business as usual at the start of this year's art Biennale as some of the richest people in the world – including François Pinault, owner of Christie's, and Victor Pinchuk, the Ukrainian billionaire – open the doors of their palazzos and throw lavish parties for their friends.

The close proximity of such ostentatious wealth makes it all the more refreshing to see Jeremy Deller, the artist chosen to represent Britain at the Biennale, pack such a political punch. In his six-room exhibition in the British Pavilion, titled English Magic, the 2004 Turner Prize winner presents a show that wittily skewers the secretive practices that promote and protect such wealth and power.

Deller is an artist who works like a curator, here using other artists and the public to produce the jigsaw pieces of his narrative. In the first of three huge murals he shows the tax haven of Jersey being being burnt to the ground; another invokes the spirit of William Morris about to smash Roman Abramovich's yacht; a third mural conjures a giant bird of prey to crush a royal Range Rover in revenge for the killing of rare hen harriers at Sandringham.

In a set of drawings of the men who led Britain into the Iraq war, Deller presents Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair as if they were courtroom illustrations, given extra resonance by the fact that they are sketched by former soldiers now serving prison sentences.

Prepare for some ruffled feathers when this beautifully paced show tours the UK next year.

If the Biennale is a multi-ring circus, its big top is the central pavilion in the official showground, and its overspill in the Arsenale shipyard, both curated by Biennale director Massimiliano Gioni. Many British artists are included, but of particular note is Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, shortlisted for this year's Turner Prize. Here she presents new portraits of women, often in poses familiar from Degas and other masters. What lends them a dark sense of mystery is the revelation that these women are all imaginary.

Among the star exhibits in the Arsenale are works by non-artists, including my favourite – a collection of embroidered sheets by the Brazilian psychiatric patient Arthur Rosario listing all the things he would need to tell God on Judgement Day.

Away from the showground, there is a treat in store for fans of transcendent minimalist art created by two veteran practitioners. A retrospective at the Correr museum of work by Anthony Caro, 90 next year, is a reminder of what beauty he produced from simple planes of coloured metal. Bill Culbert represents New Zealand at the Biennale, but he is an honorary Brit, having trained in London and settled in the city. His installation of fluorescent lightworks in the church were Vivaldi taught music creates a dramatic dialogue with the architecture, an effect which delighted Tate director Nicholas Serota who opened the show.

The YBA tendency, always so suited to showing off, has a natural place in Venice. Sarah Lucas is exhibiting a shiny new set of bronze penises and breasts in the central pavilion, and Marc Quinn has an exhibition of more than 50 works on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. But with repeated showings the impact of his Alison Lapper Pregnant – so memorable in Trafalgar Square in 2005 – is wearing thin. A monumental inflatable version installed on the lagoon is a prominent feature of this Biennale, but with the emergence of Deller's more political brand of art, the whole YBA bubble feels only a pinprick away from bursting.

To 24 Nov (www.labiennale.org)

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam