Let There Be Light

Article excerpt

Byline: Blake Gopnik; Find more coverage from the Venice Biennale on thedailybeast.com.

An old master teaches new tricks at this year's Venice Biennale--just what we need from art right now.

When the crowds throng the June 4 opening of the 54th Venice Biennale, the world's most important survey of cutting-edge art, they will get a surprise. The expected videos, installations, and performance pieces will be joined by three 400-year-old canvases by the great Venetian master Jacopo Tintoretto, with their flashing light, frantic paint, and space that never sits still. The art world's eyes may blink at the challenge.

"It's an experiment," says Bice Curiger, the 62-year-old Swiss curator invited to direct this latest Biennale."I put the paintings up there, but I don't really know 100 percent what's going to happen."

Mixing old and new reflects what we need from art right now. Curiger has titled her show ILLUMInations, because she sees art as spreading light in a globalized world. But it's not the missionary light of politics other exhibitions have touted. It's the subtler illumination that great art--like Tintoretto's--has always shed but that maybe we've lost track of. …