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Prominent pavilions at the Venice Biennale

Monday - 6/3/2013, 10:51am  ET

In this photo taken Wednesday, May 29, 2013, artist Jeremy Deller poses in front of the British Pavilion during a preview of the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale of Arts in Venice, northern Italy. The painting partially visible inside is Deller's 'The Sandringham Estate, Norfolk, UK 24 October 2007'. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

COLLEEN BARRY
Associated Press

VENICE, Italy (AP) -- The 55th Venice Biennale, the world's most prestigious art fair, features national pavilions from 88 countries, 10 presenting work for the first time -- including the Vatican. No official theme ties together the pavilions, but several ideas are emerging as favorites, including greed, collective actions and the boundaries of the physical world.

The jury awarded the Golden Lion prize for "best national participation" to Angola, for an exhibition that focus on the African nation's capital city, Luanda.

Here are some other prominent pavilions in this year's edition.

UNITED STATES

Step back and Sarah Sze's "Triple Point" series of installations at the U.S. Pavilion is a vision of symmetry and scale, ambition and grandeur. Move in and there's another way to see it, through countless tiny and more intimate scenes, much like a painting by the Dutch master Pieter Bruegel.

Sze has gathered myriad objects -- it's no exaggeration to say from around the world -- to create her Biennale commission, and she spent 2 1/2 months composing it on site, slogging through Venice's rainiest winter in more than a century.

Her sculptures are collections of everyday objects, from fans to screwdrivers to packs of sugar, connected by sticks and twigs and suspended by string and yarn, to suggest a larger system -- a planetarium, observatory or pendulum.

"In each of the rooms, I was really thinking about how we model that amount of information," Sze said. "How do we make sense of it? The idea for each of the sculptures is based around a system of modeling information that is often beyond our ability to understand, like the cosmos or the weather."

BRITAIN

There is little subtle about Jeremy Deller, neither the fluorescent pink pants he wore to previews nor his Biennale art for the British Council -- work that takes bold aim at the whims of the rich and the powerful.

The central piece is a painting of an oversized bird of prey called the hen harrier that has a Range Rover in its talons. The work references the 2007 shooting of a pair of hen harriers on the Sandringham Estate on a day when Prince Harry and a friend went shooting. As for the Range Rover, it is the object of the bird's revenge, and Deller's swipe at the haughty who ride them, particularly on London roads where he cycles.

"It's an opportunity to get something off your chest," Deller said this week. "You know you are going to have an audience."

In the next room, a painting depicts the late Victorian designer and socialist William Morris, who appears as a giant throwing Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich's 377-foot yacht into the Venetian lagoon. It's Deller's jab at Abramavoich for mooring the vessel on Venice's Giardini quay, blocking the view.

VATICAN

Australian artist Lawrence Carroll was one of three artists invited to create work for the Vatican's debut pavilion. While being tapped was an honor, he said, it's all a far cry from the Vatican commissions given to masters such as Raphael and Michelangelo.

"Commission is a funny word. Commission implies they are buying the paintings, and that is not the case. I am not sure what will happen to them after," Carroll said. "This wasn't commissioned for the Sistine Chapel. This is temporary."

Carroll's work concludes the trilogy of themes decided by the Vatican: Creation, Un-Creation and Re-Creation. The artist, who until recently lived in Venice, said he could connect with the theme, as much of his work has dealt with giving new life to objects -- a passion that goes back to his childhood when his thrifty immigrant parents would find ways to extend the use of everyday things.

Four paintings hang in one room -- all large monochromatic canvases in white. One he calls "generically a sleeping painting"; it has a square space cut in the canvas where a folded canvas has been stashed, like a blanket, to be brought out at some point when needed. Another painting is embedded in a block of ice, which melts and refreezes cyclically, a process that continually modifies it.

RUSSIA

For Russian artist Vadim Zakharov, only women can save the world from corruption.

Zakharov's installation embraces the entire pavilion and is itself a metaphor for the Greek myth of Danae, who was locked in a room by her father the king, yet impregnated by Zeus in the form of a shower of gold.

The main floor is man's domain, where greed and corruption rule and where the masses can be dismissed as "peanuts," a notion the artist conveys with irony and humor through a man dressed in a business suit who sits on cowboy saddle shucking peanuts and casting the shells into a pile.

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