Books for Venice – Navigating the Biennale


With the Venice Biennale opening on 23rd April, the Lund Humphries team have put together some recommended reading for making the most of this year's theme and featured artists!
We have gathered our books into groups which celebrate...


...The Place

Ruskin’s Venice by Sarah Quill is the ultimate art- and architecture-lover's guidebook.
Author and photographer Sarah Quill has selected passages from Ruskin's The Stones of Venice and has linked them to her own photographs of Venetian architecture, creating a fascinating guide that fuses Ruskin's vision of the city with images of the present day. Covering a wide range of subjects from palaces, churches and town houses, to bridges, courtyards and capitals, Quill's glorious photographs illuminate Ruskin's words and record with skill and precision the fine architectural details described by him.

Read a special article by Sarah Quill which reflects on the city's architecture at the outbreak of Covid-19, and considers what Ruskin may have thought of the city as it stands today... Read it here.


Architectural Tourism by Shelley Hornstein is a study of the phenomenon of architectural sites as tourist attractions, providing insight into the draw of ‘starchitecture’ and architectural pilgrimages to key historic and contemporary landmark buildings around the world - to which Venice is no stranger!

In a recent series of posts for Lund Humphries' social media, Shelley Hornstein selected extracts from her book which consider what constitutes a site of cultural heritage, and how these should be preserved. One such example in her book is the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, the lauded opera house that had hosted premiere productions of operas of world renown by Verdi, Rossini and Donizetti, which was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in its original glory. 


...The Artists

There are several artists featured in the Biennale this year who are also represented in the Lund Humphries list...
First and foremost (since the theme of the Art Biennale, The Milk of Dreams, is borrowed from her book) is female Surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington! Curator of the Art Exhibition, Cecilia Alemani says, 'the Surrealist artist describes a magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination, and where everyone can change, be transformed, become something and someone else. The exhibition takes us on an imaginary journey through metamorphoses of the body and definitions of humanity.'
Susan L. Aberth's monograph, Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, remains the authoritative volume on Carrington, and is based on hours of one-on-one conversations with the artist. Susan reflected on this author-artist relationship in a recent article for the Lund Humphries blog. Read it here.

Another female Surrealist artist, Dorothea Tanning, also features in the Venice Biennale! Victoria Carruthers' monograph, Dorothea Tanning: Transformations, is the first stand-alone survey of the work and life of artist, writer and poet, and positions her as one of the most fascinating and significant creative forces to emerge during the 20th century. We interviewed author Victoria Carruthers for the Lund Humphries blog. You can read the interview here

Amy Sillman is among the Invited Artists at the Biennale. A prolifically creative artistic polymath, American artist Amy Sillman (b.1955) works in drawing, zines, iPhone videos, installation, collaboration, teaching and curating, but painting has remained always at the very heart of her practice. Valerie Smith's monograph on Amy Sillman is part of our Contemporary Painters Series, and covers two decades of production, from the late-1990s to the present.

Jacqueline Humphries is also among the Invited Artists at the Biennale. Over the last three decades, Jacqueline Humphries (b.1960) has, through an innovative painterly process, challenged the limits of abstraction. She has produced a body of work that reaches beyond modernism, Abstract Expressionism, and abstraction as we know it. Frances Guerin's monograph on Jacqueline Humphries, part of our Contemporary Painters Series, is the first monograph on Humphries' fascinating painting practice. 

Stanley Whitney's new exhibition, The Italian Paintings, an official Collateral Event at the Biennale opens at the Palazzo Tiepolo Passi, Venice on Saturday 23rd April. 
Born in Philadelphia in 1946, Whitney moved to New York in 1968, and under the guidance of Philip Guston he began to experiment with abstraction. Steadfastly pursuing abstraction at a time when critical interest was focussed on figurative art and photography, Whitney has not received the critical recognition due to him until late in his career. Matthew Jeffrey Abrams's monograph on Stanley Whitney, also part of our Contemporary Painters Series, is the first monograph on Stanley Whitney's painting and affirms his outstanding achievement.


...The Institution

Our recent book Biennials: The Exhibitions We Love to Hate by Rafal Niemojewski, Director of the Biennial Foundation, is an essential guide to the changing institution of the contemporary-art biennial. 

Since the mid-1980s biennials have been instrumental in shaping curating as an autonomous practice. They have also been responsible for substantially reconfi­guring the art world and disrupting the existing value chain of the art market, which now relies on biennials as much as it does on major museums’ acquisitions and exhibitions.
At the same time, the arrival of new biennials in various parts of the world has also been associated with some of the most palpable side-effects of globalization. Branded by some critics as dollar-generating leisure events and showcases for highly consumable works of art, biennials have been repeatedly accused of homogenizing artistic and curatorial practices and leading to a certain fatigue. This book makes an essential contribution to a fascinating cultural debate.

Read an extract on the Lund Humphries blog.