The Venice Questionnaire #12 – José Pedro Croft

The Portuguese artist finds producing work outside of a pavilion has liberating potential

José Pedro Croft, No title, 2015, iron and mirror. Courtesy the artist José Pedro Croft, No title, 2017, wood and mirror, 245x245x245 cm. Photo: Daniel Malhão. Courtesy Galeria Helga de Alvear José Pedro Croft, No Title (from the series ‘Medida Incerta’), 2017. Iron and glass sculptures. Photo: Daniel Malhão. Courtesy the artist. José Pedro Croft, Installation view at Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, No title, 2003. Photo: Isabella Matheus. Courtesy Colecção Fundação Helga de Alvear

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2017 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the lead-up to the Venice Biennale opening (13 May – 26 November). 

José Pedro Croft is representing Portugal. The country doesn’t have a pavilion in the Giardini, but Croft will be installing a number of large-scale sculptures on Giudecca at Villa Hériot.

What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?

My participation at the Venice Biennale will consist of an installation of outdoor sculptures on Giudecca at Villa Hériot’s gardens. There will be six monumental sculptures, each measuring eight metres in height, which will have suspended mirrors and coloured glass panes measuring 6x3 metres. It is a proposal that will establish a relationship between the viewer, the surrounding architecture and landscape. A work of great engineering complexity, it will pay tribute to the builders of Venice.

How is making a show for the Venice Biennale different to preparing a ‘normal’ exhibition? Or another biennial?

The Venice Biennale is the oldest and by far the most important biennial. A unique stage for the art world. The Portuguese representation in Venice behaves in an ambassadorial manner for my country. Its preparation has required a whole year of extremely hard work as it is a very ambitious project, in a place away from the Giardini /Arsenale circuits.

There are a huge number of biennial exhibitions across the world nowadays. Do you think the Venice Biennale still has a special status, and why?

It is a biennial that dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. By exhibiting outdoors on Giudecca, I am updating the possibilities for intervention, moving away not only from the Giardini's pavilions, where the presentations are mainly within the interior of the national pavilions, but also by presenting large-scale outdoor works.

What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or is it problematic?

Above all it is a huge challenge, and of course a recognition of my work. It is an honour and, to me, it does not represent any kind of stewardship. It also presents itself as a fantastic opportunity to work on a long-term project with the curator João Pinharanda.

The Venice audience is a diverse group. Who is most important to you? The artist peers, the gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening, or the general public which visits in the months that follow?

My focus is on the work and its presentation, which is meant to be strong and blunt, and to have great visibility. In my view, all the audiences are important and without hierarchies.

Did you visit the last Venice Biennale? What’s your earliest or best memory from Venice?

I did not visit the last Venice Biennale. My first trip to the Biennale was actually very frustrating as it was raining and I could not find a hotel despite incessantly trying for ten hours... It was a shame as I ended up not seeing the Biennale in the end. I have been to the Biennale since and I have really enjoyed it!

How does having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your home country?

Not having an official pavilion is a problem that we have to deal with at every biennial. This year it has allowed me to do this very ambitious project and not to be confined to any interior space available.

You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?

I’m looking forward to wandering around, drifting between the projects without any kind of prejudice.

Click here to read all the Venice Questionnaires so far

19 April 2017