None of the ten most popular pavilions from the Venice Biennale will surprise you—it’s all big-name countries with cutting-edge contemporary art scenes—but some of the artists and projects represented might. From a one-handed piano concerto to an immersive installation of 886 stools, explore these ten pavilions and find out which artists are bound to be the art world’s next brightest stars (if they’re not there already).
10. French Pavilion: Anri Sala presents a multi-channel suite of films, each documenting professional pianists playing an intricate piece with only one hand. “Each film focuses on the choreography of the left hand appropriating the entire keyboard, while the right hand remains still,” he describes.
9. Brazilian Pavilion: Curator Luis Pérez-Orama has assembled six artists whose works center around the theme of the Möbius strip—the infamous single-sided surface with only one boundary component.
8. Korean Pavilion: Renowned Korean artist Kimsooja, best known for her performance works, has converted the Korean Pavilion into a spatial experience for the visitors—“A moment of light, colors … in a black hole,” as curator Seungduk Kim describes.
7. Australian Pavilion: The Singapore-born Simryn Gill has removed half of the roof of Australia’s pavilion to create her immersive installation of photographs, drawings, and sculptures inspired by Australia's pit mines, dams, lakes, and water holes.
6. British Pavilion: The centerpiece of Jeremy Deller’s British pavilion is his film English Magic—a mashup of imagery from scrapyards, street parades, and his infamous inflatable Stonehenge, all set to a steel drum soundtrack that includes songs by David Bowie.
5. Chinese Pavilion: For the “Transfiguration” exhibition, curator Wang Chunchen presents seven Chinese artists who explore the “transformation of life to art”, often via the elevation of commonplace materials and rituals.
4. Russian Pavilion: Vadim Zakharov’s magical project reinvents the myth of the Danaë for modern times: a shower of gold coins empties into the pavilion’s lower level, where only women (who are provided umbrellas as protection) are allowed. “This is not sexism but merely follows the logic of the anatomical construction of the myth,” Zakharov explains.
3. German Pavilion: Departing from tradition, Germany invited four artists from around the globe—China, France, South Africa, and India—to install works at the pavilion. Included is Ai Weiwei’s photogenic construction of 886 stools, a symbol of the traditional Chinese crafts whose production plummeted after the Cultural Revolution.
2. Italian Pavilion: Curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi set 14 artists—the better known including photographer Luigi Ghirri and dioramist Gianfranco Baruchello—in pairs of two, presenting their works in seven “dialogues” with one another.
1. United States Pavilion: Sarah Sze’s sprawling, buzzed-about takeover of the U.S. pavilion is a site-specific installation of an impossibly wide array of materials: construction tools, sculptures, detritus, and found objects. For Sze, the central question of the project is, “What objects in your life have value, and how is value created?”
Photographs by Alex John Beck for Artsy unless otherwise specified.