Vadim Zakharov. Danaë
Russian Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
June 1 – November 24, 2013
Curator: Udo Kittelmann
Commissioner: Stella Kesaeva
Organizers: The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and Stella Art Foundation, Moscow
Official site: www.ruspavilion.ru
Vadim Zakharov’s 'Danaë' project represents Russia at the 55th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia. Zakharov’s installation has united the upper and lower storeys of the Pavilion in a single project for the first time in the building’s long history (the Pavilion was built in 1914 by the Russian architect Alexei Shchusev who, ten years later, would also design Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow).
The theme of the installation turns around the ancient Greek myth of Danaë. The myth of Zeus and Danaë has inspired many famous works of art since ancient times, including the picture by Rembrandt, painted in1636-1647 and kept in the State Hermitage Museum, where it was seriously damaged in 1985 by a madman who threw sulphuric acid onto the canvas and slashed it in two places.
Vadim Zakharov: ‘The installation has two points for viewing—from above and from below (in the central hall of the Pavilion a large square hole has been made in the ceiling of the lower exhibition space, and an altar rail with cushions for kneeling has been built on the upper floor, around the hole). Kneeling and looking down, we can grasp and feel that we are present at a unique process of materialization of the myth. Through the huge hole in the floor, we fall into another semantic and poetic space, into which golden coins fly from a pyramid ceiling. Below we see women with umbrellas, which protect them from being struck by the coins. The lower hall can only be visited by women. This is not sexism but merely follows the logic of the anatomical construction of the myth. What is masculine can only fall inside from above, in the form of golden rain. The lower level of the Pavilion is a “cave womb,” keeping tranquility, knowledge, and memory intact.’
For the first time in the history of the Russian Pavilion the exhibition is curated by a foreigner – Udo Kittelmann, currently Director of the Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
Prior to the exhibition opening Kittelmann said: ‘I am very pleased to accept the challenging task of curating the Russian Pavilion in order to show Vadim Zakharov at the Venice Biennale 2013. This will be the second time I have curated one of the national pavilions. The last occasion was in 2000 when I organized the German Pavilion with German artist, Gregor Schneider. However, there is one rather large difference between then and now. When I curated the German Pavilion, I personally selected the artist, whom I thought would be the most interesting to present in Venice. Now Vadim Zakharov, the artist himself, together with his commissioner Stella Kesaeva, have chosen me to be the curator - a curator who has considered Vadim Zakharov to be one of the most outstanding international artists since we first met in the late 1980s.’
As Kittelmann says: ‘The mythological theme of Danaë, as a constantly recurring theme in art from antiquity to the modern age, is given an updated interpretation by Vadim Zakharov in the Russian Pavilion. The Greek myth of the impregnation of Danaë is subjected to numerous readings: a falling shower of gold makes reference to the seduction of Danaë as an allegory for human desire and greed, but also to the corrupting influence of money. Through his artistic staging, Zakharov allows this ancient myth to find a contemporary temporal dimension. Philosophical, sexual, psychological, and cultural fragments become concentrated into a theater-like overall composition throughout the Pavilion rooms. The project has sculptural and pictorial elements and invites active participation by visitors to guarantee the flow of material goods (coins, peanuts, rose petals, people) as an ongoing process. In this “Performance in Five Acts,” Zakharov presents the significance of the embodiment of myths to a society that no longer lends them any credence.’
“the time has come to confess our Rudeness, Lust, Narcissism, Demagoguery, Falsehood, Banality, and Greed, Cynicism, Robbery, Speculation, Wastefulness, Gluttony, Seduction, Envy, and Stupidity.”
The Pavilion Commissioner Stella Kesaeva shared her impressions from working on the project: ‘When I invited Vadim Zakharov to represent Russia at the Venice Biennale, I based my decision on the fact that he is one of the most significant artists working in our country today. But I could not imagine that the Danaë project would reveal Vadim Zakharov’s talent to me in a new light. I understand how important it was for him to work with Udo Kittelmann, who is not only an excellent curator but also a close friend. A successful combined effort always produces a striking result. I am pleased that our project has won the support of the Russian Ministry of Culture and I look forward to its success in Venice.’
An illustrated catalogue has been compiled for the exhibition edited by Udo Kittelmann (published by Hatje Cantz Verlag). It includes texts by Vadim Zakharov and the Curator of the Metropolitan Museum, Nicholas Cullinan, as well as a foreword by Stella Kesaeva, two conversations between artist and curator, recorded in 2005 and 2013, and ‘A Manual’ created by UdoKittelmann, which serves as a ‘guidebook’ to the exhibition.
Vadim Zakharov. Danaё
50 kilos peanuts
1 altair rail
1 execution chair of love
1 coin elevator
Exhibition consultancy: Meyer Voggenreiter Projekte
Production: Altofragile, Lichtblick Bühnentechnik
Structural works: Th&ma architettura
Associated adviser: Vladimir Levashov
Exhibition photographer: Daniel Zakharov
With the support of: Mercury Group
Media partner: AD
Photo: Daniel Zakharov