Venice Biennale The Russian Pavilion

Vadim Zakharov's installation showers golden coins over female visitors while a man in a suit watches
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Installation view from Vadim Zakharov's Danaë - photo courtesy Daniel Zakharov
Installation view from Vadim Zakharov's Danaë - photo courtesy Daniel Zakharov

Danaë, according to Greek mythology, is the mother of the Greek hero Perseus; she was impregnated by the god Zeus, who appeared to her as a shower of golden rain. With these bare facts, visitors to Vadim Zakharov installation, Danaë, at the Russian Pavilion for 2013 Venice Biennale, can unpick this simple, yet arresting work.

In the upper floor of the two-storey pavilion, 200,000 golden coins are continuously rained down, through a hole, into a 'cave womb' set into the ground floor. Only female visitors are allowed into the lower floors, and are offered an umbrella to protect themselves from this heavenly shower. In the floor above, a man in a suit watches the coin shower, while one walls around him are adorned with the phrase: ""Gentlemen, time has come to confess our Rudeness, Lust, Narcissism, Demagoguery, Falsehood, Banality, and Greed, Cynicism, Robbery, Speculation, Wastefulness, Gluttony, Seduction, Envy and Stupidity."

 

Installation view from Vadim Zakharov's Danaë - photo courtesy Daniel Zakharov
Installation view from Vadim Zakharov's Danaë - photo courtesy Daniel Zakharov

Get it? It's a brave and simple in stallion, in part acknowledging the Russian reputation corruptive wealth. Is the gender segregation valid? Well, Zakharov overtly denies charges of chauvinism. "This is not sexism but merely follows the logic of the anatomical construction of the myth," he explains. "What is masculine can only fall inside from above, in the form of golden rain. The lower level of the Pavilion is a 'cave womb,' keeping tranquility, knowledge, and memory intact."

 

Vadim Zakharov's Danaë golden coins - photo courtesy Daniel Zakharov
Vadim Zakharov's Danaë golden coins - photo courtesy Daniel Zakharov

The work might have crass overtones, yet Zakharov is no oaf; in 2003 he created the monument in Frankfurt-am-Main to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the philosopher Theodor Adorno. Instead, Danaë appears to be one of the sharper critiques of modern wealth, while perhaps questioning the kind of birthright today's golden shower will bring. As all good classicists know, Perseus killed the gorgon, Medusa. Should the lady visitors to Zakharov's installation hope for a similar demi-god to save us from all this gluttony and stupidity?

To find out more about the exhibition go here. For a greater understanding of Zakharov, take a look at our Cream 3 book, which features the artist's work alongside 99 of his contemporaries. For a greater understanding of the way art fairs and biennales can influence the greater forces of history, take a look at our books Salon to Biennial and Biennials and Beyond.


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