One of my favourite exhibitions during the 55th Venice Biennale is Italian-born, New York-based Rudolf Stingel‘s solo at the Francois Pinault owned Palazzo Grassi.
The exhibition takes wall-to-wall carpeting to a whole new level, as every inch of floor and wall space (that’s 50,000 square feet of floor and 30,000 square feet of wall in case you were wondering) is covered in red kilim rug digitally printed carpet.
It is the largest ever solo exhibition for Stingel in Europe. A selection of over thirty paintings from collections around the world, including Pinault’s, are brought together in the magnificently carpeted three-storey palazzo. In addition to his abstract and textured paintings, a series of Stingel’s photorealist works — portraits, landscapes, and religious iconographic paintings — including a stellar large portrait of friend, Franz West, who died last year, are also on display.
The site-specific installation fuses histories and narratives. Layered atop late 18th century classical Venetian architecture, the Oriental pattern of the carpet references Venice’s history as part of the Byzantine Empire. But it is also an allusion to Sigmund Freud’s study in Vienna, characterised by the collection of Oriental rugs covering every possible surface. The result in the palazzo is intended to inspire a feeling of ‘containment’ as one embarks on “a trip into the Ego with its repressions and illusions, where each painting contributes to forming a topography of the unconscious”, states curator Elena Geuna. In any case, this is art moving beyond the ‘white cube’.
With no point of reference for where the exhibition begins or ends, the effect is overwhelming, and a little disorientating as you make your way through the labyrinthine space, from one room to another. It’s an impressive all-encompassing sensorial, and sensational, experience.
On until 31 December, 2013. Don’t visit Venice without seeing this!