6 Of The Most Weird And Wonderful Artworks At The Venice Biennale

Ancient relics by Damien Hirst, giant hands rising from the Grand Canal and trolls. It can only by the 2017 Venice Art Biennale

Damien Hirst Biennale 2017

The Venice Art Biennale has opened for its 57th year, transforming the historic city into world's largest art festival with the best contemporary creations. Between May and November, the Arsenale in Venice will play home to an international exhibition of 120 artists, while collateral events take over palazzos and museums across the city.

As the art world descends on the floating city, here's ELLE's guide to the most incredible sights at the Art Biennale.

The 57th International Art Exhibition is open May 13 to November 26. A full regular ticket costs € 25 and can be purchased here.

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1 'Support' by Lorenzo Quinn

Spot this giant pair of hands rising out of the water to support the luxury Ca'Sagredo Hotel, a 15th-century Palace near to the Grand Canal. Artist Lorenzo Quinn created the sculpture, which measures over 30ft high, to comment on the effect of climate change and rising sea levels in the city.

'Support', Ca'Sagredo Hotel, Venice Biennale, May 13 to November 26.

2 'Treasures From The Wreck Of The Unbelievable' by Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst's vast solo exhibition spans between two museums, the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, and took almost 10 years to complete. The show tells the story of the wreck of an ancient ship, the Unbelievable, 2,000 years ago, and showcases more than 180 treasures lifted from the depths.

But – despite elaborate underwater footage of the retrieval team at work – everything is not quite as it seems. The artefacts are fiction. Look closely and you'll find the shape of Mickey Mouse (among others) beneath the barnacles. Myth, fact and fiction collide in this exploration of collecting and why we visit museums.

'Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable', Punta della Dogana and Palazzo Grassi, Venice, April 9 to December 3.

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3 'The Golden Tower' by James Lee Byars

This 65ft, glistening, gold tower has been erected on the edge of the Grand Canal, between the Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim art galleries, for the duration of the Biennale. 

The gold surface of the tower echoes the gilded buildings throughout Venice, and is a symbol of ascension. The Golden Tower, by the late artist James Lee Byars, was first exhibited in 1990.

'The Golden Tower', Campo san Vio, Venice, May 13 - November 2017

4 'Faust' by Anne Imhof

Faust, a two-hour performance piece by German artist Anne Imhof, takes visitors entirely out of their comfort zone. The immersive installation forces viewers to get up close with a troupe of solemn performers via a raised glass floor. There are also Doberman dogs and riot fences guarding the entrance, creating a claustrophobic, totalitarian space.

Each year the Venice Biennale jury selects the best work in the exhibition. Anne Imhof was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion award for Best Pavilion.

'Faust', German Pavilion, Venice Biennale, May 13 to November 26.

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5 'folly' by Phyllida Barlow

Artist Phyllida Barlow's sculptures dominate every inch of the British Pavilion, so much so that flourescent pink, concrete balls cascade from the windows. 

In the centre of the exhibition, visitors must pick their way through a labyrinth of towering columns. Barlow's large-scale structures are made from cheap, everyday materials, such as concrete and timber.

'folly', British Pavilion, Venice Biennale, May 13 to November 26.

6 'Ūgh and Bõögâr' by Egill Sæbjörnsson

Damien Hirst isn't the only artist letting his imagination run wild at the Biennale. Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjörnsson has his brought two troll friends, Ūgh and Bõögâr, to Venice. The artist has given the trolls their own exhibition at the Icelandic Pavilion, and you can find them causing mayhem across Venice on Instagram.

'Out of Controll in Venice', Icelandic Pavilion, Venice Biennale, May 13 to November 26 . Follow the trolls on Instagram @icelandicpavilion.

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