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Covering the Waterfront

Covering the waterfront in Venice for the 50th Biennale was no easy feat in the city’s equatorial heat. Here’s who made the effort.

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Delphine Arnault in Christian Dior.

Photo By Stephane Feugere

VENICE — Normally in European social circles, it’s the English who carry on about the weather. But during the 50th Venice Biennale, the city’s equatorial heat was as inescapable as a malevolent stalker. And everyone was morbidly fascinated by it.

“You go into the Arsenale [exhibition hall] and you enter a sauna,” said Mexican Ana Lucia de Theresa Addam.

“I saw nothing,” added New Yorker Anh Duong. “I thought I was going to faint.”

“It’s not, ‘Which pavilion is the best?’” suggested Londoner Jessica de Rothschild. “It’s, ‘Which pavilion has the best air conditioning?’”

“I’m only here to enjoy the…heat,” said non-exhibiting Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury, as she met her companion, John Armleder, at Harry’s Bar, a heavily air-conditioned rendezvous point which also drew the likes of Azzedine Alaïa.

While the art professionals had no choice but to sweat through their appointments, those who came for personal interest — or to attend Venetian Heritage activities — were more selective in their visits to the national pavilions in the Giardini and the Arsenale’s main exhibition, “Dreams and Conflicts.” One afternoon, Bianca Jagger staked a claim on a shaded patch of Piazza San Marco after she’d met her limit.

“Death by art,” was her growling assessment of the weekend.

“Morte di arte,” corrected her companion, Cambridge historian John Adamson.

In fact, the informal reviews of the Biennale — the inaugural effort from new director Francesco Bonami —were the only things chilly about the weekend. On the other hand, the social scene was a knockout. Prominent visitors included luxury kingpins François Pinault and Bernard Arnault; artists Maurizio Cattelan and Damien Hirst; designers Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs; collectors Ronald Lauder and Miuccia Prada; art professionals Thomas Krens and Larry Gagosian, and Princesses Firyal of Jordan and Michael of Kent.
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