12 Unmissable artworks at the Venice Biennale 2019

Nicole Mollet selects her top 12 artworks from this year's Venice Biennale


1. Deep See Blue Surrounding You
Laure Prouvost
French Pavilion, Giardini

Glass sculptures, an escape tunnel, detritus, breast shaped lights, a tapestry, a twenty minute video with comfortable chair sculptures. A humorous and eccentric work inspired by outsider artists, which engineers new myths and encourages connectivity and collective joy. The multiple elements and a troupe of performers, lead the viewer on a journey which seeks to discover the alternative truths and ways of forming meaning as a group.

LaureProust-French Pavilion

2. Four Nocturnes 2019
John Okomfrah
Ghana in Venice, Arsenale

A 3 screen 50 minute multi-layer epic masterpiece. The work draws seamless parallels between the macro and the micro. As a viewer it is mesmerizingly beautiful to watch. Connecting themes of loss and restitution, in a landscape where natural and manmade forces collide.

John Akomfrah-FourNocturnes- Ghana Pavilion

3. Undo Things Done
Sean Edwards
Wales in Venice
Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, Castello (Church is between Arsenale & Giardini)

The work includes sculpture installations, video, photographic book, and traditional welsh quilts. The work talks about life growing up on an council estate and the feeling of ‘not expecting much’ as translated into a visual language. Refrain, a live radio play read by the artist’s mother is performed at 2pm every day. The sound work lasts approximately 40 minutes.

Sean Edwards- Wales Pavilion 2019

4. L’Ange du Foyer (Vierte Fassung) 2019
Cyprien Gaillard
Giardini, Main curated exhibition

Projected LED lights to form a moving sculpture in darkened room. Image inspired by a Max Ernst 1937 painting relating to the rise of Fascism in Europe. A clever use of new technology to create a small but powerful political work.

CyprienGaillard- Giardini Main Pavilion

5. Smiling Disease 2008
Cameron Jamie

Arsenale main curated exhibition. An installation consisting of multiple wooden head/mask sculptures which balance on sticks. Reminiscent of Krampus and other Alpine folk traditions.


Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys
Belgium Pavilion, Giardini

If you are in need of a laugh, go and see this work. This collaborative installation distils the perverse world of bonkers small museums, attempting to recreate an imaginary past using dummies and sound. The exhibition is accompanied by a small catalogue in which the stories of the character’s unconventional lives are told.

mondocane- Belgian pavilion

7. The White Album 2019
Arthur Jafa
Giardini, This work is at the far end of the main exhibition space. 50 minutes video projection.

This work beautifully edits footage of real life mass murderer together with various clips of homemade footage posted to social media platforms, music tracks, internet news footage and manic rants to camera.


8. Sun and Sea ( Marina)
Lina Lapelyte, Vaiva Grainyte and Rugile Barzdziukaite
Magazzino n. 42, Marina Militare, Arsenale di Venezia, Fondamenta Case Nuove
Video segment https://vimeo.com/320379708

1hr live performance/opera. Access via stairs to listening platform.
Performance every Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm. Having seen this work on the ‘off’ days, I strongly advise visitors to make time to go to the Saturday live opera, otherwise don’t bother. It is hard to find, you can walk from Arsenale, but GPS takes you to a dead end, it is better to aim for the Celestia vaperetto stop, and then navigate from there.

You can also apply to take part, if you can sing and don’t mind hanging out in your swimwear on a fake beach. You have to commit to at least 3 hours, and you have to do it online via the website in advance. It might be an interesting alternative way to experience the Biennale.


9. Untitled 2019
Frida Orupabo
Giardini, main exhibition.

A series of collage/sculptures mounted on aluminium. Although 2D these works seem to hover on the wall like giant paper puppets. Orupabo’s work explores questions related to race, family relations, gender, sexuality, violence and identity


10.  Untitled 2017-2019
Michael Armitage
Giardini, main exhibition.

A series of ink drawings of political rallies in the lead up to a Kenyan general election.

Michael armitage 2

11. Life After BOB: First Tract 2019
Ian Cheng

A series of lightboxes. This graphic novel /fanzine tells the story of an artificial intelligent creature called BOB who learns to behave via interacting with humans.

Ian Cheung -close up

12. The Shrinking Universe
Eva Rothchild
Irish Pavilion, Arsenale