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Venice Biennale: Vik Muniz & James Byars

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A collage of the Temple of Juno, by Vik Muniz

The world's most famous art festival is underway in Venice. Held every two years, the 57th Venice Biennale is spread throughout the city with literally hundreds of art exhibits and installations, both indoors and outdoors. An example of one of the most dramatic outdoor artworks is shown here: The Golden Tower, set up in the Campo San Vio, adjacent to Palazzo Cini. It is by the late James Lee Byars of Detroit, and will be on display until Nov. 26, 2017.


Byars envisioned “The Golden Tower” as a colossal beacon and oracle that would bridge heaven and earth and unify humanity – a contemporary monument surpassing the grandeur of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The idea of “The Golden Tower” first began in 1974 and was developed with numerous conceptual studies throughout the artist’s career. The work was first exhibited in 1990 at the GegenwartEwigkeit exhibition at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin and later in 2004 at the posthumous retrospective Life, Love and Death at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. Towering to a height of over 20 meters, “The Golden Tower” is the artist’s largest and most ambitious work. The Venice installation of “The Golden Tower” is the first to fully realize the artist’s intentions of presenting the sculpture in a public space.


The Golden Tower by ByarsThe Golden Tower by ByarsAt the Palazzo Cini is an exhibit created specifically for this venue: 10 photographs of collages by the 55-year-old Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. As the accompanying catalog states, they are "mostly imaginary views, capricci and landscapes chosen for the ambiguous and fascinating presence of ruins as survivals of civilizations."  The exhibit is entitled Afterglow: Pictures of Ruins


The one shown here is based on the work of one of my two favourite painters, Caspar David Friedrich. It is entitled Temple of Juno in Agrigento. The title Afterglow, attached to each work, is meant to signify the dispersion of sunlight as the extreme act, radiance and reminiscence of civilization as a ruin.


A truly extraordinary collection, and as each work is composed of collage the closer you look, the more detail you will see, with many unexpected images that serve to create the entire view.


The Muniz exhibit runs until July 24, 2017.


The Palazzo Cini houses its own extraordinary collection. Do not make a trip to Venice without seeing it. Here is a direct link to their website:


The Golden Tower is on display by the Michael Werner Gallery. It is curated by Alberto Salvadori and made possible thanks to the generosity of Fondazione Giuliani, Rome. Visit the website:


Another article about art currently on display in Venice will be published soon, based on a special trip made by Sun News to the Venice Biennale in July 2017. Photos with this article copyright by Cliff Cunningham

Clifford Cunningham

Dr. Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist. He earned his PhD in the history of astronomy at the University of Southern Queensland, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. In 2014 he was named a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. He is the author of 14 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honor in 1990 by the International Astronomical Union based on the recommendation of its bureau located at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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