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United States Pavilion (Giardini della Biennale)
Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini
Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca’ Foscari

Public Dates and Hours
United States Pavilion
Sunday, June 7 – Sunday, November 22, 2009
The Giardini will be closed Mondays (with the exception of June 8) while the Arsenale will be closed on Tuesdays (with the exception of June 9).

Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca’Foscari
Sunday, June 7 – Sunday, October 18, 2009
Wednesday through Monday; closed Tuesday

Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini
Sunday, June 7 – Sunday, October 18, 2009
Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday

Bruce Nauman (b. 1941, Fort Wayne, Indiana) is regarded as one of the most innovative artists of his generation and is often cited as a catalyst for the recent shift in much international artistic practice toward conceptual and performative uses of language and the body. In work encompassing video, installation, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and neon, Nauman engages mundane situations and interpersonal communication, only to subvert them through paradoxical visual and linguistic manipulation.

Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, the official United States representation at the 53rd International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The exhibition underscores recurrent themes in Nauman’s 40-year career and offers a thematic view of the work that he has produced, including video, installation, performance, sculpture, and neon. The presentation includes seminal works, a number of which have seldom, if ever, been seen in Europe, and premieres a new sound installation by the artist. The exhibition is structured around the notion of topology—a field in mathematics that examines the continuity of space amid changing conditions—which is used to understand the artist’s work as well as the context in which it will be displayed.


Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens is on view across three prominent locations in Venice: the U.S. Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale; Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini; and the Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca’ Foscari.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art pursued its partnerships with these universities, two of Venice’s premier academic institutions, in part to enable thousands of Venetian students to engage fully with Nauman’s work, while at the same time encouraging Biennale visitors to explore the urban fabric of Venice beyond the Giardini. At the Università Iuav di Venezia, Nauman’s works are installed in the school’s main building, located in the cloisters of the former Tolentini convent near Piazzale Roma. Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens also occupies the exhibition spaces of Ca’ Foscari, two floors of a 15th-century Gothic palace, prominently situated on the Grand Canal. In the Giardini, Nauman’s works across various mediums fill the neoclassical building of the U.S. Pavilion, emphasizing its architectural volume and features.

United States Pavilion, Giardini della Biennale
The traditional venue for U.S. presentations at the International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, the U.S. Pavilion is a neoclassical 1930’s building located in the Giardini and purchased in 1986 by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. The pavilion includes an entrance plaza, rotunda, and two wings built in the Palladian style popularized by Thomas Jefferson. It is one of 30 national pavilions, in addition to the Italian Pavilion, that are located on the grounds, which became the first public garden in Venice in the 19th century. With the first Biennale in 1895, the Giardini found their current role and are home to the city’s Biennales in the areas of art, architecture, cinema, dance, music, and theatre.

Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini
Università Iuav di Venezia grew out of a special architecture course taught at the Accademia di Belle Arti of Venice in 1923, and in 1926 became the second school of architecture in Italy. Today Università Iuav di Venezia has amplified and diversified its degree programs to include three faculties— Architecture, Urban and Regional Planning, and Arts and Design—and recently founded the School of Doctorate Studies. The Iuav is the only university in Italy dedicated to a specific area of knowledge: teaching design and planning for all disciplines concerned with man’s habitat and environment. Università Iuav di Venezia has highly qualified services and research facilities including a projects archive; survey, cartography, and territorial data processing center; laboratory for the analysis of antique materials; and laboratory for constructional engineering. Research at Università Iuav di Venezia focuses on issues concerning city transformation and regional development and is conducted with the full collaboration of both public and private local institutions. The Università Iuav di Venezia program has involved some of the most noteworthy individuals working in the fields of architecture and urban planning, including Franco Albini, Giovanni Astengo, Ignazio Gardella, Bruno Zevi, Giancarlo De Carlo, Carlo Scarpa, Giuseppe Samonà, Manfredo Tafuri, and many others. Università Iuav di Venezia’s current Rector is Carlo Magnani.

Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca’ Foscari
Ca’ Foscari takes its name from Palazzo Foscari, one of several buildings that form the campus of the University. The Palazzo Foscari was built on the waterfront of the city's Grand Canal by the Doge Francesco Foscari in 1452 and is a fine example of the Byzantine-inspired gothic architecture that distinguishes many of the palazzi lining the Grand Canal built during this period. The first college to be housed in Palazzo Foscari was the Royal Higher Commercial College, which was founded in 1868 as Italy's first higher education institute to deal with economics and commerce. It was the first institute of its kind with the primary objective of training businessmen, and also serving as a training college for secondary school teachers of commercial subjects. Ca’ Foscari became a university in 1968 and currently has four distinct faculties: Faculty of Economics and Business; Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature; Faculty of Literature and Philosophy; and Faculty of Mathematical, Physical, and Natural Sciences. Ca' Foscari has 19 academic departments, 17 research centers, and a library system providing access to 900,000 books and 6,000 periodical subscriptions. Some 20,000 students are currently enrolled at the university.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a generously illustrated catalogue organized by Carlos Basualdo and dedicated to Anne d’Harnoncourt, late director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The catalogue is published in English and Italian by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press. The catalogue will include texts by Erica Battle and Basualdo on the organization of the exhibition and feature detailed discussions of works on view. Michael R. Taylor will examine Nauman’s practice in an art-historical context, and Marco de Michelis will explore the notion of space as deployed throughout Nauman’s oeuvre, with particular reference to the works on view.
240 pages; 94 color and 31 black-and-white illustrations, including 75 works by the artist. $40. ISBN: 978-0-87633-217-1.


Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art, and Michael R. Taylor, Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, developed this exhibition with the artist and serve as U.S. Commissioners to the Biennale.

Carlos Basualdo joined the Museum staff in 2005, where he initiated the collection-based installation series Notations, which included William Kentridge: Tapestries in 2007. He also started Live Cinema, which explores single channel video through a rotation of programming. Basualdo also serves as Adjunct Professor at the Istituto Universitario de Architettura (IUAV) in Venice. Before joining the Museum, Basualdo was co-curator of Documenta 11 (2002) and of one of the sections of the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003. He organized Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture seen at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2005, the Barbican Art Centre in London, and the Bronx Museum of Art in New York. He also organized the exhibition Hélio Oiticica: Quasi-cinemas, at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2001 and also seen at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, in Cologne, Germany; The Whitechapel Gallery in London; and the New Museum in New York, in 2002. In addition, Basualdo was the curator of From Adversity We Live, at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2000), and co-curated The Aesthetics of Dreams (with Octavio Zaya), a section of the broad-ranging exhibition Versions of the South, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain, (2001). He is currently at work on an upcoming exhibition about Michelangelo Pistoletto. Basualdo has written extensively for publications including Artforum, ARTnews, The Art Journal, The Art Newspaper, Moscow Art Magazine, Flash Art, NKA, Journal of Contemporary African Art, Atlantica, and Art Nexus.

Michael R. Taylor is the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His most recent exhibitions at the Museum include Thomas Chimes: Adventures in Pataphysics (2007); Salvador Dalí (2005), a centennial retrospective co-curated with Dawn Ades; and Giorgio de Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne (2002). Taylor studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where he wrote a masters thesis on Richard Hamilton and a doctoral dissertation on Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. He has published widely on Duchamp, Dada and Surrealism. Future projects include Marcel Duchamp: Etant donnés (August 15 – November 1, 2009) and Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective (October 2009 – January 2010).

Commissioning Institution

The exhibition is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art, and Michael R. Taylor, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are the U.S. Commissioners. In June 2007, the Museum acquired one of the most important early neon works by Nauman, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign), 1967, which will be included in the exhibition.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest art museums in the United States, showcasing more than 2,000 years of exceptional human creativity in masterpieces of painting, sculpture, works on paper, decorative arts, and architectural settings from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The Museum offers a wide variety of enriching activities, including programs for children and families, lectures, concerts, and films.

Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale is the oldest and most prestigious contemporary international art exposition in the world. This year, Daniel Birnbaum has been selected as the Director of the Visual Arts Sector and will curate the 53rd International Art Exhibition.

Project Administration

Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, the official U.S. representation at the 53rd International Art Exhibition---La Biennale di Venezia, is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and presented in collaboration with the Università Iuav di Venezia and the Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia, with the support of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.


Major support for the U.S. exhibition is provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Henry Luce Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Additional funding is generously provided by Agnes Gund, Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann, Sperone Westwater Gallery, and many other Friends of Bruce Nauman, including the Donald Young Gallery, Chicago, and Dr. Friedrich Christian Flick; Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, The Broad Art Foundation, Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, Jaimie and David Field, Gemini G.E.L., Glenstone, Jeanne and Michael Klein, Jill and Peter Kraus, Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Palazzo Grassi, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, the Sender Collection, Peter and Mari Shaw, and Sotheby’s, with an in-kind contribution from Codess Cultura. Additional support was provided by Clarissa and Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Borja Coca, Dorothee Fischer/Konrad Fischer Galerie, Marion Stroud Swingle, Selma and Joseph Vandermolen, and Robin Wright and Ian Reeves.

The accompanying catalogue has been made possible by Isabel and Agustín Coppel. At Ca’Foscari, the exhibition is sponsored by FriulAdria - Crédit Agricole. Credits complete as of May 12, 2009.


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