Review of Taking Venice: A Cold War Art Caper Takes Center Stage at Sarasota Film Festival

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Taking Venice: A Cold War Art Caper Takes Center Stage at Sarasota Film Festival

By Candace Carson

“Taking Venice,” a documentary film that premiered this past Sunday at the Sarasota Film Festival, dives into a fascinating chapter of art history intertwined with the political tensions of the Cold War.

The film explores the 1964 Venice Biennale, a prestigious international art exhibition, which became an unexpected battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union. Fueled by a desire to promote American cultural influence, the U.S. government sets its sights on winning the Grand Prize. Enter Alice Denney, a Washington insider, Alan Solomon, an ambitious art curator, and Leo Castelli, a powerful NY art dealer, who convince a reluctant Robert Rauschenberg, a rising Pop Art star known for his unconventional works, to be their secret weapon.

Director proves adept at weaving together archival footage, interviews with key figures, and insightful narration. The story unfolds like a thrilling narrative, complete with suspenseful maneuvers and international intrigue. We see the American team navigate a complex web of politics and personalities, encountering resistance from both the European art establishment and Rauschenberg himself, who grapples with the idea of being a pawn in a larger geopolitical game.

“Taking Venice” is not just about the art or the competition; it’s about the clash between artistic freedom and national agendas. The film sheds light on the power dynamics at play in the art world and the often-murky relationship between art and politics.

If you’re interested in art history, the Cold War, or underdog stories, “Taking Venice” is a must-see. The film is a captivating exploration of a pivotal moment in American art, raising questions about the purpose and value of art in a divided world.

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