Danh Vo Brings Tequila to Venice for First Artist-Curated Punta della Dogana Exhibition

Danh Vo enlisted his father to create limited-edition tequila bottles.

Danh Vo with Danh Vo Special Edition Punta della Dogana 2015 at the Punta della Dogana, where Vo has curated
Danh Vo with Danh Vo Special Edition Punta della Dogana 2015 at the Punta della Dogana, where Vo has curated "Slip of the Tongue."

When Danh Vo was asked to be the first artist to curate an exhibition at Venice’s Punta della Dogana (run by the Pinault Collection, as is the Palazzo Grassi), his first thought was tequila.

The agave plant–based liquor might seem like a strange choice in a city where the most famous drink is the fizzy peach Bellini at Harry’s Bar, but Vo has been living in Mexico for the past year, where he’s apparently fallen in love with Casa Dragones, a small-batch tequila producer.

For the show in Venice, Vo has produced a limited-edition bottle collection of Casa Dragones’ signature Joven variety. It’s a project that sounds like a sponsorship deal, but was born of Vo’s appreciation for the brand, its artisanally produced leaded crystal bottles, and, presumably, its ability to make a mean margarita.

Called Danh Vo Special Edition Punta della Dogana 2015, the piece comprises tequila bottles handcrafted in Mexico City by Casa Dragones artisans. Individually molded, sculpted, bathed and polished, the bottles then undergo a special Mexican engraving technique, called Pepita, which creates the signature seed-like pattern on the brand’s bottles.

What sets Vo’s edition apart are labels with hand-drawn calligraphy by his father, Phung Vo, that read “Slip of the Tongue,” the name of the Punta della Dogana exhibition.

The title takes its name from one of the show’s artworks, an installation by architecturally minded Nairy Baghramian, one of 52 artists who joins Vo in the exhibition. Slip of the Tongue, a selection of flaccid-looking silicon-coated concrete sculptures, is made in part from the materials left over from the fabrication of another work in the show, Baghramian’s French Curve, an oversize take on the architectural template used by draftsmen to draw even curves.

Collaborating with Pinault Collection curator Caroline Bourgeois, Vo has built his exhibition on the theme of artworks as objects that evolve over time and are gradually repurposed. Vo includes historical examples of the practice, with a series of miniature paintings that began life as illuminated manuscripts drawn by monks, on pages that have long since been cut out of the books.

With works by artists ranging from contemporary figures such as Elmgreen & DragsetFelix Gonzalez-Torres, and Alina Szapocznikow to 13th-century masters and Auguste Rodin, the exhibition draws from a wide swath of art history.

New Yorkers may be familiar with Vo through his full-scale casts of sections of the Statue of Liberty, which he scattered around parks in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan for last summer’s Public Art Fund project “We the People” (see Danh Vo Cuts the Statue of Liberty Down to Size). As the 2012 winner of the Guggenheim Museum‘s Hugo Boss Prize, Vo staged an exhibition of artwork and tchotchkes from the collection of the Chinese-American artist Martin Wong (see Destined For a Garage Sale, Martin Wong’s Collection is Saved by Danh Vo and the Walker Art Center). He’s represented in New York by Marian Goodman gallery.

The Venice exhibition also includes Vo’s 08:03, 28.5, a late-19th-century chandelier taken from the Hotel Majestic in Paris, which housed offices for Nazis during the German occupation of France in World War II. The hotel was also the site of the Paris Peace Accords, which ended the Vietnam War.

The artist will bring 666 more bottles of his “Slip of the Tongue”–branded tequila to the Danish Pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale (see Danh Vo Will Rep Denmark at 2015 Venice Biennale and The 2015 Venice Biennale List of Artists Is Out—See Our Exclusive). At both events, bottles will cost $330.

“Slip of the Tongue,” curated by Danh Vo, in collaboration with Caroline Bourgeois, will be on display at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, April 12–December 31, 2015.


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