The 57th Venice Art Biennale’s Argentinian Pavillion caused quite the stir. The mammoth sized Arsenal building houses Claudia Fontes’ “The Horse Problem” and it’s escalating as one of the art event’s most photographed installation. The piece in all it’s glory depicts a small girl caressing the nose of a massive, powerful horse, frozen in movement.
Seeking several sources for inspiration, the Argentinian artist drew from some very interesting outlets.
Firstly, the building. The Venice Arsenal was built, churning out ships and the necessary armor needed for the lagoon’s powerful naval fleet at the time. At the time of construction, the Arsenal consumed 15% of Venice’s landmass and was considered the largest pre-Industrial Revolution industrial complex in Europe. Fontes noted that “wood, bricks, and iron could only have been made and put together by horse-power in the times the Arsenal was built.”
Secondly, the nation. Being a rare opportunity for artists to display their masterpieces, the Venice Biennale inspires the necessity to create pieces meant to represent an entire nation. “Representing a country does have an ethical dimension that you have to address in your work, because the work is funded with public money,” explains Fontes. “So I would say it is neither problematic nor an honor: it is a responsibility, and a very big one.”
Partly, Fontes sought out Ángel Della Valle’s 1892 painting, The Return of the Indian Raid, which today is considered Argentina’s first art piece commissioned to represent them abroad. Fontes managed to take character from the original piece – the horses and the captive girl and her contemporary vision sets them both free.
The scene is inspired by the nineteenth-century cultural icons around which Argentina’s cultural identity was artificially built, and challenges them with a surreal scene that will hopefully have the quality of an apparition,” Fontes shares with Artreview.
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