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
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?