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Art market crash leads to cutting comment

THERE could be no more cutting comment on the crash of the contemporary art market than the joint exhibit of the Nordic and Danish pavilions at the 53rd Venice Biennale - a mock-up of adjacent homes of wealthy collectors, now up for sale.

The crash of a decadent era has taken its toll: a body floats face down in a pool outside as real estate agents (curators) lead potential buyers (art aficionados) on a tour of the two properties, the creation of 24 international artists.

Still, there was debate about the extent to which the world financial crisis has or has not permeated this edition of the Venice Biennale, the oldest and arguably most influential of the world's contemporary art fairs, which opens to the public tomorrow and runs until November 22. Many had the impression there were fewer critics and fewer dealers coming to see new talent.

"There seems to be less of the irrationally exuberant parties that there were year ago. And the art seems to be more earnest and harsh," said David Resnicow, a New York-based art consultant. "I think it is a different mood."

Aaron Betsky, director of the Cincinnati Museum of art who was also curator of the Biennale's architecture show last year, said he didn't see the crisis reflected in the art itself "other than a reference here or there."

"There is definitely less glitz than in previous years," he said.

But no artist backed out because of money, said Daniel Birnbaum, the rotating director of this year's Biennale under the title "Making Worlds," an invitation to artists to represent a vision of the world - and not see art as a commodity.


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