Venice Biennale: Danish and Nordic Pavilion

Welcome to the Pavilion everyone has read about. Or at least seen the image that almost became the icon of the biennale at its opening:


The corpse floating face down in a swimming pool, does not belong to William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. It’s Mister B., a middle-age art collector.

Elmgreen & Dragset curated not one but two pavilion: the Danish and the Nordic ones. Two venues but one exhibition titled ‘The Collectors’. Because the artist duo like art as much as their fictitious collectors, they have also invited to the Venice party the works of Maurizio Cattelan, Tom of Finland, Han & Him, Jonathan Monk, William E. Jones, Terence Koh, Klara Lidén, Norway Says, Nina Saunders, Wolfgang Tillmans and many others.

0aaettueslapli.jpgInstallation shot from ‘The Collectors’ . Photographer: Anders Sune Berg. Jonathan Monk, Maquette for a Giant, Spinning O, 2006 + Norway Says, Cyclos, 2006 + Nina Saunders, Payload, 2009

The pavilions have been turned into domestic settings. Mister B., the dead guy floating in his pool, lived in the modernist Nordic pavilion. He found a sad end but wants you to know that his life was a non-stop party. His luxury pad is filled with designer furniture. There are works by renowned artists all over the walls and a transparent bathroom right in the middle of his house. He used to pin his young lovers’ bathing suits in a frame as if they were precious butterflies. Truth is, everything about this interior is very ostentatious and very gay.

0aalabathr7oom.jpgInstallation shot from ‘The Collectors’ . Photographer: Anders Sune Berg

0aaladouchebain.jpgInstallation shot from ‘The Collectors’ . Photographer: Anders Sune Berg: ‘The Hockney Bathroom’ + Elmgreen & Dragset, Marriage, 2004

0aapleindesjlips.jpgHan & Him, Butterflies, 2009. Courtesy of the artists

00atomoffinland.jpgTom of Finland, Black Magic, 1984. Copyright of image: Tom of Finland Foundation, Los Angeles


A few meters from Mister B.’s home lived his neighbours, Family A. You will get to know them through the dining room, bedrooms, book shelves, kitchen, artworks and the collection of flies (yes, flies!) they’ve left behind. But you won’t meet them. They’ve probably known better times. Their teenager daughter clumsily sprayed her bedroom in black (she is a goth you see), the stairs are broken, a message scribbled on the entrance mirror says “I will never see you again”, there’s a crack in the table and plates are scattered on the kitchen floor. Guarded by the family’s taxidermied dog, the house is now for sale.

0ahouseforsalll.jpg0aate2nageroom.jpgKlara Lidén, Teenage Room, 2009

As the title of the show indicates, the curators approach the topic of collecting, and the psychology behind the practice of expressing oneself through physical objects. Why do we gather items and surround ourselves with them in our every day lives? Which mechanisms of desire trigger our selection?

The Collectors is pure Elmgreen & Dragset. There isn’t much depth to uncover (even if some believes that the drowned collector was a perfect metaphor for the state of the art market) but it’s efficient, witty and flawlessly executed. The Collectors won a special mention from the Biennale jury of the 53rd International Art Exhibition.

Tata Channel has a video interview. Vernissage TV caught up with Dragset.