Painters in Venice

In “Making Worlds,” the central exhibition at the Venice Biennale, the theme is derived from Nelson Goodman’s Ways of Worldmaking. Originally an art dealer, Goodman turned to philosophy and aesthetics later in his career. His slim volume, published in 1978, is a good read, and has undoubtedly influenced many artists, particularly those who have been exploring relational aesthetics for the past few years. Here’s an excerpt:

“Never mind mind, essence is not essential, and matter doesn’t matter. We do better to focus on versions rather than worlds. Of course, we want to distinguish between versions that do and those that do not refer, and to talk about things and worlds, if any, referred to; but these things and worlds and even the stuff they are made of — matter, anti-matter, mind, energy, or whatnot — are themselves fashioned by and along with the versions. Facts, as Norwood Hanson says, are theory-laden; they are as theory-laden as we hope our theories are fact-laden. Or in other words, facts are small theories, and true theories are big facts. This does not mean, I must repeat, that right versions can be arrived at casually, or that worlds are built from scratch. We start, on any occasion, with some old version or world that we have on hand and that we are stuck with until we have the determination and skill to remake it into a new one. Some of the felt stubborness of fact is the grip of habit: our firm foundation is indeed solid. Worldmaking begins with one version and ends with another.”

But back to the exhibition. In addition to “Making Worlds,” which was curated by Daniel Birnbaum, different countries have curated their own exhibitions (the US has a Bruce Nauman extravaganza which won the Golden Lion award for best national participation), and international institutes and organizations have organized over forty more exhibitions throughout the city.

The press preview took place in the first week of June, but few critics mentioned anything about the paintings in their reviews of “Making Worlds,” so I asked Two Coats intern Willa Koerner to put together a list of artists whose work involves some form of painting. Here’s what she came up with.

For a list of all ninety participating artists, click here. To read about John Wesley‘s huge retrospective in Venice, organized by Italian curator Germano Celant for the Prada Foundation, click here.

The Venice Biennale runs through November 22.


  1. Pavilion highlights:
    Fiona Tan (The Netherlands).
    Steve McQueen (Great Britain).
    Roman Ond�k (Czech Republic and Slovak Republic).
    Kristina Norman (Estonia).
    Pedro G. Romero, Daniel G. And�jar and Sitesize (Catalonia)
    Jo�o Maria Gusm�o + Pedro Paiva (Portugal)
    Krzysztof Wodiczko (Poland)
    Bruce Nauman (United States of America)
    Pavel Pepperstein, Alexey Kallima, Andrei Molodkin, Gosha Ostretsov, Irina Korina, Sergei Shekhovtsov, Anatoly Shuravlev (Russia)
    Louli Michaelidou (Republic of Cyprus)

  2. Thanks, Anon, for the Pavilion listing. Anyone want to add links?

  3. For interesting application of Goodman's aesthetics to recent art history (1950-2000) visit http://www.depictionandpainting.net

  4. This is as far removed from Bourriaud's muddled notions of relational aesthetics, as analytical philosophy is from existential or continental versions.

  5. For a severe review of Bourriaud's relational aesthetics, see Hit&Miss2

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