'Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens' at the Venice Biennale

Date: June 7, 2009 - June 30, 2009

53rd International Art Exhibition
U.S. Pavilion in the Venice Biennial’s Giardini

Venice, Italy 30124


A multifaceted, multi-site exhibition examining and highlighting the central themes of a leading American artist’s extraordinary forty-year career, Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens will represent the United States in the 53rd International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia—popularly known as the Venice Biennale. Composed of three interrelated components on view at three separate locations throughout Venice, Italy, Topological Gardens will present Nauman’s work in the U.S. Pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale (a park with twenty-nine international pavilions that serves as official center of the Biennale) and on the premises of two of the city’s most highly esteemed academic institutions—the Università Iuav di Venezia at Tolentini and the Exhibition Spaces at Università Ca’ Foscari.

Bruce Nauman is widely regarded as one of the most innovative American artists of our time, an artist who pioneered and remains at the forefront of exploring language and the body through revelatory and rigorously conceived and realized individual artworks, installations, and performance. Nauman investigates and purposefully challenges the traditional dichotomies between the body and mind, sight and sound, memory and contemporaneity, offering insights into the paradoxical nature of the human condition. One early, seminal work recently acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign), 1967, employs to fascinating effect a number of elements characteristic of Nauman’s singular approach. A spiraling sign that spells out its slogan in neon cursive lettering, Nauman’s Window or Wall Sign proposes—at once idealistically and self-consciously—that the role of the artist is to bring to light critical truths to society.

By including a range of Nauman’s work in neon, video, installation, performance, and sculpture—from iconic selections to rarely or never-before-seen works, including the debut of a groundbreaking sound installation—Topological Gardens will encourage visitors to chart connections among various locations in Venice and to shape and direct their own experience of Nauman’s provocative art. This exhibition is structured around the idea of topology—the mathematical investigation of how geometric figures remain fixed amid changing spatial conditions—and resonates with the artist’s own exploration of the boundaries between private and public.

Carlos Basualdo, the Museum’s Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art, and Michael Taylor, its Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, were selected by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State to organize the U.S. presentation at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Mr. Basualdo and Mr. Taylor submitted their proposal for Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, on behalf of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions in 2007.


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. The accompanying catalogue has been made possible by Isabel and Agustín Coppel.


Carlos Basualdo • The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art
Michael R. Taylor • The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art

For more information about the exhibition visit the Web site of the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the Venice Biennale.

(All Fields are required)