(Sarah Crompton’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 10/26.)

In a dark room at the back of the Arsenale in Venice, you find the Chilean entry for this year’s Biennale. But walk through too quickly and you will miss it.

Alfredo Jaar’s brilliant piece consists of a large tank full of murky, dull green lagoon water out of which, at quite long intervals, emerges a detailed scale model of the Giardini, the Venice gardens which have housed the exhibitions of art submitted by nations around the world for more than 100 years.

It is like Atlantis rising from the deep; a sudden bubbling moment of creativity, order and hope pushing its way through the darkness of the engulfing waters; an assertion of civilisation.

Jaar, who was born in Santiago in 1956, has exhibited at the Biennale before; indeed he was the first artist from Latin America ever to show there, and the power of his work springs from his ability to find a poetic image for a profound truth.

I was in Venice at the weekend, watching and listening to the young talents who have formed part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Initiative over the past year. The aspiring creators who are chosen from seven disciplines – literature, art, music, dance, architecture, film and theatre – and from all over the world, are given a chance to benefit from the guidance of an established artist in the same discipline.


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