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Erwin Wurm and Brigitte Kowanz to Represent Austria at the Venice Biennale

By Sarah Cascone


For the 2017 Venice Biennale, Erwin Wurm and Brigitte Kowanz will represent Austria with a show titled "Licht-Pavillon" (Light Pavilion). The pair has been selected for the honor by culture minister Josef Ostermayer and pavilion commissioner Christa Steinle.


Kowanz, of Vienna, is known for her mesmerizing neon works. Wurm, who is known for his humorous and absurdist works, has had a presence in the Biennale before: in 2011, he exhibited his installation Narrow House, a comically-skinny home, at the Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti as part of a collateral event called Glasstress 2011. The piece offered a commentary on our modern day obsession with weight loss. (But it has nothing on Israeli writer Etgar Keret's three-foot-wide design masterpiece in Warsaw.)


Visitors can reportedly expect designed-themed works from the artists for the upcoming Biennale, as "both artists' work takes place at the intersection of art and architecture," Steinle told der Standard in a statement translated by artnet.


However, Wurm predictably added, "I will not respond to the original architecture of the pavilion." Instead, the two artists will present separate projects in the shared space of the Hoffmann Pavilion.


Though the upcoming edition is still over a year out, plans are already being finalized for the biannual art event, with Christine Macel, chief curator at Paris's Centre Pompidou, set to curate the 57th International Art Exhibition.


In March,  Philipp Kaiser, director of Museum Ludwig in Köln, Germany, was tapped to curate the Swiss pavilion, and sculptor Phyllida Barlow was selected to represent Britain. Other early announcements have included Susanne Pfeffer as curator of the German Pavilion, and artist representatives Lisa Reihana for New Zealand, Geoffrey Farmer for Canada, and Tracey Moffatt for Australia.


In addition to the Biennale's official Marcel-curated exhibition and national pavilions, Venice will inevitably play host to a number of unofficial collateral events and presentations during the fair, such as philanthropist and art collector Francesca von Habsburg's recently-announced Oceans Pavilion.


Wurm, who lives and works in Vienna, is represented in the collection of such institutions as the the Albertina, Vienna; Vancouver Art Gallery; Centre Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna; CAC Malaga, Spain; Kunsthaus Zurich; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Albright Knox Gallery, New York.


Kowanz's work can be found at Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas; Fundación ARCO, Madrid; Museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation, Vienna; and Centre for International Light Art, Unna, Germany, among other institutions.