Category Archives: Venezia

Discovering and exploring Venice, Italy. Special attractions include La Biennale, a biennial art show in the gardens and old arsenal of Venice.

Bar Ai Nomboli for Sandwiches in Venice

Looking for a cheap snack or an entire meal of sandwiches while in Venice?  This is definitely the place to go: Bar ai Nomboli.  So friggin’ good, so many choices and very reasonable, especially for Venice.  They also make great fresh juices.  Try one with carrot.  The best sandwich I had was salami, mushrooms and truffle oil.  Whoa.

Bar ai Nomboli
Sestiere San Polo, 2717
30125 Venezia
+39 041 523 0995 ‎

My Objective Guide to the 54th Biennale – Giardini

This is my (and my cousin, Tanguy’s) objective, unofficial guide to navigate through the 2011, 54th Venice Art Biennale: Illuminazioni.  It should be especially useful for anyone with a limited amount of time and who likes mixed media art installations.

I’ll start in the Giardini which is comprised of large pavilions, each filled with art  by a different artist from each of 28 countries.  Now obviously there are more than 28 countries in the world, right?  Other countries are represented in galleries scattered around Venice.  You can see these shows for free and should visit them whenever you pass one.  If you’re short on time, it’s not worth following any kind of map to go see them all.

I always like to start my Biennale adventures in the Giardini because I feel like it’s an easy way to ease into the onslaught of art.  You can also take relaxing little breaks in the gardens in between pavilions.  Okay here we go:

French: Yes, worth it.  Christian Boltanski made a pretty cool installation called “Chance” and it really makes you think a bit about life and death — only because he displays an estimated number of people that are dying and being born in real time.

British pavilion – I liked this pavilion not because of what was inside but because the artist transformed the entire pavilion into a small village or ghetto, almost.  It’s pretty cool to see and it must have take and absurd amount of work.  So, worth it.

Japan is worth seeing if not just for the cool way that the images are projected and reflected in the pavilion.

The USA pavilion was the BEST. The winner.  Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla did an awesome job entertaining me — and keeping my wallet full.  A liberty statue tanning, an ATM machine embedded in an organ that played music when you withdrew money and an olympic athlete running on top of a tank (check the video below).  All very cool.  Supposedly the song that the organ plays is related to your bank balance…. so my song was short and sad.


Korea was pretty cool.  Lots of flower camouflage and awesome videos of people wearing it all.  Fun to see, pleasing to the eyes.

Next, Denmark: lots of weird collections of various artifacts belonging to the artist.  Interesting presentation.

Israel’s installation was about water and building a salt bridge between Israel and Jordan.  Pretty neat.

Venezuela was alright… cool cartoons of world leaders, pop stars, etc.  But it’s worth it to go check it out just to see the most beautiful docent/attendant at the Biennale.  Yeah, I said it.

The Venice pavilion was very cool, giant boats turned on the diagonal with tv’s inside showing running water.

Poland was also very interesting, all about a call for Jewish Polish people to return to Poland.  Touching videos as well, worth sitting though them.  No pictures for that.

The large pavilion displaying lots of random pieces from all over the world was also very cool.  There was also an installation running throughout the entire building of pigeons hanging out in the rafters. Very cool.  And weird talking heads.

And here are the ones I was less than impressed by:

  • Australia… Nope.
  • Switzerland pretty much looked like a dump. Not worth it.
  • Germany gets a maybe but it was super weird and I could have gone without seeing it.
  • The Czech pavilion was definitely missable.
  • As was Russia… boo.
  • Sweden was weak.
  • Serbia, you get a maybe.
  • Spain and Belgium left a bit to be desired.
  • The Netherlands were disappointing.
  • Finland and Hungary were, well, boring.
  • Brasil – depressing – if you like weird art that includes human blood, then check it out.
  • Egypt – sorry, no.
  • Austria divided the space in an interesting way but I’m not sure it was worth the ten minutes I spent walking through it.
  • Egypt, no, sorry.
  • Romania, F.
  • Canada, I really expected more from you.
  • and Greece… ???

Check out my short review for the Arsenale.

My Objective Guide to the 54th Biennale – Arsenale

The Arsenale is an awesome space to for an art show.  I enjoyed walking through at a leisurely pace and looking through the various installations.  I liked many of the video pieces as well, although there were way too many to watch.  I would recommend walking through the whole show and spending most of the time in the first part of the exhibit.  The Italian section at the end is overwhelming and there is just too much to see.  The Museo della Mafia Salemi is the one part of the Italian section that is definitely interesting to see.

Waiting in line for the James Turrell light piece is also worth it if the line is no longer than 25 people.

Here are a bunch of photos of my favorite parts in no particular order.

This is the Mafia section.  It was all about how fed up Italians are with the mafia.

This was my favorite piece in the Italian building…. His undies say Dolce & Gabanna.

And that’s that. Enjoy the show and I’d love to hear any thoughts or reactions about everything.

Here’s my longer, more in-depth Giardini review.

Climbing Mike and Doug Starn’s Bamboo Masterpiece

There is a lot of cool stuff going on in Venice during the Biennale.  Mike and Doug Starn‘s Bamboo construction was one of the coolest things we came across.  They’re the same guys that made the bamboo thing on top of the Met in New York.

In Venice, it’s giant and you can climb on it, at least until the 15th of June, and it was pretty magical being up on top looking out over the Guggenheim Museum and the Grand Canal.

The Arsenale at the Biennale and the 4th day

The 4th day in Venice begins with sleeping in. Oh man oh man, another long day of art. So much art. The Arsenale is the old munitions depot of Venice. It’s basically a few huge buildings with loads and loads of art in them. On the way there we saw an awesome mobile fried fish kitchen on a boat. Hmmmm. Awesome. Pictures below.

So, the Arsenale: smashed mirrors, African villages, bread and bread, mechanical moons, cool benches, neon with mirrors (always cool), bird-feeder-chandeliers and much much more.  My favorite installation was a video piece made by two Catalan  filmmakers, David Bestue and Marc Vives which I found a pasted in below.  Enjoy.

We met our old friend Max, his wife and his new baby girl Margarita for drinks (Margarita did not drink) and then returned to Birraria for a late dinner.  Makin’ zucchini flowers for breakfast!