michael beutler's shipyard at the venice biennale pays homage to arsenale's historic function

michael beutler's shipyard at the venice biennale pays homage to arsenale's historic function

german artist michael beutler transforms an outdoor space in venice’s arsenale into a site-specific work titled ‘shipyard.’ beutler’s works have been featured in exhibitions throughout europe, but this artwork, in particular, places his work within a specific and compelling context. the 2017 venice art biennale, in a time of great political and social turmoil, has chosen to focus this year’s theme around the artist as a creator and the artistic process. beutler’s works fills an interest niche in this ongoing, multi-faceted discussion.

michael beutler shipwreck
‘viva are viva’ is the 2017 venice art biennale featuring 120 international artist, 103 are new to the biennale
all images by simon vogel



the venice art biennale’s head curator christine macel writes, ‘viva arte viva’ is a biennale designed with artists, by artists and for artists, about the forms they propose, the questions they ask, the practices they develop and the ways of life they choose.’


how does beutler fit into this conversation? through his artwork, in reaction to the existing environment, beutler is able to transform a space. during the installation process, the site becomes his temporary studio — bringing the artist and his process to the forefront of the work itself.

michael beutler shipwreck
the biennale consists of both indoor and outdoor installations throughout the venice arsenale and giardini



‘shipyard’ takes into account the arsenale’s historical function — the venetian republic’s main shipyards. remnants of this history can be seen throughout the arsenale galleries. many of beutler’s materials have also emphasized an interest in industrial production methods and recyclable materials, strengthening the connection between beutler’s work and the arsenale as an artistic venue.

michael beutler shipwreck
throughout beutler’s career, the artist has been interested in industrial production and recyclable materials

michael beutler shipwreck
the structure’s materials: douglas fir, water, pool liner, and nylon rope

michael beutler shipwreck
during the process of construction, the site becomes the artist’s temporary studio

michael beutler shipwreck
the venice arsenale’s industrial history plays an essential role in beutler’s site-specific artwork

  • The point that he has chosen to design and construct a houseboat, that is actually floating, needs to be made here. Technically he is fulfilling the historic role of this yard to build this, but extends the possibilities of this idea with his 4 constructed pools. The whole floating structure can be easily moved with the force of wind or curious exhibition visitors. The result is a slow, meditative inducing movement that contrasts with the aged and imposing walls surrounding this site.

    Paul Johnston says:

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