After the pandemic delayed it by a year, the recently opened “Milk of Dreams” exhibition at the 59th Venice Biennale has received acclaim for its low-key Surrealist take on our dire times. You probably know this already because friends, colleagues, and faces in your streams have been flocking to Italy to glamorously chronicle their old-world exploits. Sitting at home while worrying about Ukraine and monkeypox, you’ve been feeling major FOMO about all the gondola rides, opulent dinners, and virtuous art pavilions you’ve yet to experience. After daydreaming about narrow Italian canals and extra virgin olive oil, you are almost ready to buy a plane ticket. But first, take this quiz to determine if you should head to Venezia for a dairy-filled biennial blowout.
1. Your ideal art-going companion for the Biennale would be:
a) A gropey gondolier with a pencil mustache and striped boatneck shirt
b) A toothpick-chewing pickpocket with a glint in his eye
c) A newly acquitted Mario Batali in Crocs with Gwyneth Paltrow in tow
2. The most must-see national pavilion on your itinerary is:
3. In order for you to attend a high-profile exhibition, it must include at least the following amount of female artists in its mix:
4. Longing to cancel someone or something in a Biennale that hasn’t yet generated much controversy, you look for it elsewhere by decrying:
a) Oligarch-owned yachts on display during international sanctions
b) Paying for water at restaurants
c) The ubiquity of holy and unholy genitals in Renaissance painting and sculpture
5. You find Surrealism as a relevant contemporary art strategy in 2022 to be as potent as:
a) A mass bourgeois spectacle to distract from the twin pandemics, climate disaster, and World War III
b) The Whitney Biennial’s domestic take on the exact same thing
c) Gluten-free pasta with no-nut pesto
6. While everyone at dinner talks about a supposedly great exhibition that you didn’t like at all, you would try to change the conversation by asking:
a) “Can you believe what they charge for a copy of Art in America these days? Sheesh.”
b) “OMG, did you try the garlic knots at the Sbarro in the train station?”
c) “How do you think I’d look on a Vespa?”
7. While taking in Simone Leigh’s U.S. Pavilion and seeing a gallerist who once asked you for a studio visit but never followed up, you would:
a) Open a can of Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’artista on them
b) Scream “Ugatz!” while using Italian hand gestures you learned from your nonna
c) Hire your Cosa Nostra friends to deliver a horse head to their hotel room
8. While overhearing a conversation about Anselm Kiefer over breakfast, you would jump in by saying:
a) “The Pavilion of Gelato was a lot better than I expected.”
b) “I happen to be Anselm’s gallerist and wanted to let you know about our 50-percent-off summer sale.”
c) [In a deep Italian accent] “Venice would be great without all the tourists.”
9. Which one of the following are you certain is not an Italian cocktail?
10. If you had to distill your desire to see the Biennale into one emoji, you would select:
10–16: “Mangia! Mangia! Mangia!” This chant in a scene in Passolini’s Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom is what you imagine while also foreseeing long airport lines and perspiring crowds. You should just stay home, microwave a Stouffer’s fettuccine alfredo, snort a heap of ketamine, and browse jpegs online to get the same thrilling experience.
17–23: While it costs thousands and takes a whole day to get to Venice, Domino’s can deliver pizza in around a half hour for under $10. Can you really afford to take a trip so far from home? Take stock of your cash flow and your cholesterol levels before committing to a costly adventure that might leave you disappointed.
24–30: Getting on a plane is no more fun today than it was before Covid, but you are rested and ready to deal with the hassles of travel. It is finally time to get off the couch and experience the art world in full bloom. After devouring platefuls of scungilli in Venice, careen over to Art Basel for a link of Landjäger, and then check out the bretzels at Documenta for a summer art trifecta.