Artnet News | These Artists Made It Into Two of the Year’s Three Biggest Exhibitions

June 27, 2017



As one of the busiest years for art in a decade starts winding down and the dust kicked up by the international jet setting art crowd begins to settle, certain takeaways from the Big Three—documenta 14, the 57th Venice Biennale, and Skulptur Projekte Münster—come into view.


One thing that can be said about the curatorial approaches taken by Adam Szymczyk and his team at documenta 14, Christine Macel at Venice, and to some extent, Kasper König and his team in Münster, is their efforts to eschew market pressures and established canons in favor of a diverse list of participating artists, with many names thus unfamiliar to even seasoned art insiders.


Having compared the artist lists of the three major art events, artnet News has noticed eight figures who appeared in two out of the Big Three this year. And while not entirely off-the-radar, the list includes names that may be new to many. (In regards to the artist list for documenta 14, we’ve only looked at the names listed on the quinquennial’s website, excluding artists that have contributed to the TV and radio programs.)


We delve deeper into these artists’ practices to contemplate why they were considered worthy of inclusion by the curators of at least two of these major shows, regarded in turn as deeply thought-through statements about the state of the art in our day and age. How do their ideas fit into the Now? And how well do you know their work?


Maria Lai

1919–2013, lived and worked in Sardinia, Italy

Medium: Drawing, painting, textile, weaving 

Participation: documenta 14; 57th Venice Biennale

Gallery representation: Nuova Galleria MORONE, Milan; Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie, Berlin


The work of the late Sardinian artist relates to the insularity of her craggy native island, its community—especially the identities of women there—and literature. Textile and yarn threading through a site-specific installation, a performance, or the pages of one of her “sewn” books—whose open threads spill from the paper towards the viewers—all relate to her central notion of art’s healing qualities.


In Athens, photographic documentation of her community performance To tie oneself to the mountain (1981) features alongside drawings and sewn canvases, while in Kassel, two of her sewn books are on view at the Neue Galerie as well.


Similar works are shown in Venice, along with some of her delicate-looking books made of bread and thread. Yet the works seem more vibrant here, given more room to unfold. What’s more, the seminal performance from 1981 is shown here again through photo and video documentation, where the Italian island’s residents’ obvious enjoyment of engaging in the playful, symbolic tying of their homes to island’s landscape is infectious.