Palazzo Fortuny, 3780 San Marco, 30124, Venice, Italy

  • 04 DELACROIX Study of a Greek Jacket
    Title : 04 DELACROIX Study of a Greek Jacket
  • 05 CEZANNE Paysage d'hiver
    Title : 05 CEZANNE Paysage d'hiver
  • 08 MORANDI Still Life
    Title : 08 MORANDI Still Life
  • 1.27 BORREMANS The Ghost II
    Title : 1.27 BORREMANS The Ghost II
  • 10 FONTANA Concetto spaziale
    Title : 10 FONTANA Concetto spaziale
  • 11 YOSHIHARA Untitled
    Title : 11 YOSHIHARA Untitled
  • 12 RYMAN Untitled
    Title : 12 RYMAN Untitled
  • 13.31 Facciata su campo san Beneto
    Title : 13.31 Facciata su campo san Beneto
  • 14.30 allestimento fortuny2
    Title : 14.30 allestimento fortuny2
  • 15.frt 23 SUGIMOTO North Pacific Ocean, Ohkurosaki
    Title : 15.frt 23 SUGIMOTO North Pacific Ocean, Ohkurosaki
  • 2.18 VERHEYEN Urbino
    Title : 2.18 VERHEYEN Urbino
  • 3.07 DE CHIRICO Piazza d'Italia
    Title : 3.07 DE CHIRICO Piazza d'Italia
  • 6 DUMAS Skaam
    Title : 6 DUMAS Skaam
  • 7.28 BRUYCKERE Infinitum
    Title : 7.28 BRUYCKERE Infinitum
  • 9 UECKER White Phantom
    Title : 9 UECKER White Phantom

Review by Claire Louise Staunton

Opening strategically at the same time as the Venice Biennale, the exhibition Infinitum, at the Palazzo Fortuny was an unmissable destination on any Venice visitor’s art map. There were already countless offsite, parasitic satellite and spin off projects that hung on desperately to the festival for some international exposure but Infinitum stood alone. It was almost a shame for such a strong exhibition to be overshadowed by the inflated extravagance of the Biennale. On the opening weekend, Infinitum attracted a queue even longer than Bruce Nauman’s American pavilion. However, Infinitum delivered much more than just a re-hashing of old work into new.

The sense of disorientation after navigating one’s way through the labyrinthine alleyways of north-west Venice was gloriously compounded upon arriving at the museum. Infinitum was an exhibition layered on all four floors of the historic Palazzo Fortuny with no signage, labeling or printed information and curated according to the thematic of ‘The Infinite’. A rather broad remit, the exhibition overwhelmed the visitor with over 300 artworks that either singularly explored an idea of infinity through an artistic medium or sat in relation to the other works in an attempt to represent the world in its entirety.

The initial frustration from the absence of labels quickly dissipated as it became clear that such information was irrelevant to the experience of Infinitum. Each of the floors claimed its own sub-theme and ironically the ground floor included work referencing the infinity of space and sky. A poorly lit Anish Kapoor disc (Glow, 2009) was unspectacular, but other more literal approaches were more successful. A newly commissioned work by Erik Dhont was one such example of this. Bathed in a shaft of natural light at the foot of a tiny courtyard, Form Meets Nature (2009) was a miniature living landscape. The silent black pond filled with digital counting gadgets, Sea of Time (2009) by Tatsuo Miyahima, evoked ruminations on the slipperiness of time.

There were far too many works to mention in a single review but the countless rooms with single works and a larger hall with literally hundreds of artifacts reminiscent of a wunderkammer discombobulate the visitor on the first floor. Focusing on the autonomy of the work of art as infinite, the large space arranged much like a large living room and studio displayed contemporary and classical works alongside each other. Such democratic curating dealt with the artwork, artifacts and antiquities from the prehistoric to the postmodern equally, privileging the overall reception of the exhibition rather than individual pieces. This was arguably at odds with the identification of the autonomy of the artwork as specified by the curators. Nevertheless, each object carried kaleidoscopic references to the infinite, while the sheer number of works involved alluded to an infinity of experiences through their multiple nature.

A Michelangelo sat alongside an Egyptian bust under an unfinished Cézanne not far away from Michael Borremans’ video, Ghost II (2008), at the top of a ladder. Side chapels presented a mesmerising but rather obvious James Turrell (Red Shift, 1995). Elsewhere a whole room dedicated to darkness presented Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings (1959). Guilio Paolini’s In-fine (2009) was most appropriate; a glass sculpture infinitely performing and representing the labyrinth of the host city in its reflective surfaces.

The monochrome of the second floor allowed for room to breathe both literally and thematically. The large floor to ceiling windows allowed the outside in, a welcome relief from the wondrous claustrophobia from the first floor. Perhaps intentionally, there was little memorable work from this floor, focusing on the more clinical architectural design models and minimalist invisibility. The attic however, was a study on the minimal with reference to the infinite through architecture. A mud hut by Tatsuro Miki and Axel Vervoordt employed traditional Japanese design houses with fourteenth century clay vases and acts as a fascinating support structure for a Mark Rothko (Gray, Gray on Red, 1968) a couple untitled Miro’s and a Picasso.

Inifintum was a curatorial marathon and in every way the exhibition performed the themes that it sought to address. Through the impossibility of naming let alone engaging with the all the works, and the necessity of being selective, the visitor was made very aware of their own personal experience and subjectivity. It was awareness of this that allowed for the most powerful suggestion of the infinite.

Claire is Director/Curator of Inheritance, a non-profit curatorial organisation dealing with issues of historicity and heritage through contemporary art, music and performance.

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