The Natural History Museum of Venice is a fantastic place to visit with or without Biennale art. A long thin room with bottle-glass windows houses ceiling high cabinets of flayed geese, legions of finches, herbariums and rocks. It also houses the least successful artwork, a twee paper cut out of plant silhouettes, draped over a botanical album.
The museum is so incredibly opulent it's hard to create something that can match the feather, beak, wort, wart, horn encrusted, fabergé-basilisks egg nature of it all, but Maurizio Cattelan manages it in the most sumptuous room of all. It is a bluebeard's chamber splattered with different skin, fur and pelt. There is a huge leather desk that has hooves for feet, a gorilla crucified on scarlet silk walls, giraffe necks, ostrich eggs, rearing pythons and elephants ears. Cattelan's piece is a huge Aesop's Fable stack of worried looking animals, an inside-out Roman banquet.
|Maurizio Cattelan, Loves saves life (I musicanti di Brema), 1995|
It's fun to visit the show here, because some of the permanent exhibits are so striking so bizarre and so shocking, it's a hard act for the artists to follow. Visit for Cattelan's sculpture and for the museum as a whole, especially the old less interactive parts untampered with by educational curators.
When you've finished you can sit in the basement having a cake and watching the gondolas float past the window.
The Brothers Grimm version of The Bremen Town Musicians
Between art and science, Italian artists from the ACACIA collection
Natural History Museum, Venice
Until 24 October