Taking Venice – Director Amei Wallach

At the height of the Cold War, the U.S. government is determined to fight Communism with culture. The Venice Biennale, the world’s most influential art exhibition, becomes a proving ground in 1964. Alice Denney, Washington insider and friend of the Kennedys, recommends Alan Solomon, an ambitious curator making waves with trailblazing art, to organize the U.S. entry. Together with Leo Castelli, a powerful New York art dealer, they embark on a daring plan to make Robert Rauschenberg the winner of the Grand Prize. The artist is yet to be taken seriously with his combinations of junk off the street and images from pop culture, but he has the potential to dazzle. Deftly pulling off maneuvers that could have come from a Hollywood thriller, the American team leaves the international press crying foul and Rauschenberg questioning the politics of nationalism that sent him there. Director Amei Wallach (Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here) stops by for an in-depth conversation on a time and place where the long reach of the Cold War, the internal machination’s of the Olympic’s of the art world and the ascendency of modern art’s bête noire and how they all crossed paths in this John le Carré-ish tale.


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About the filmmaker – Amei Wallach is an award-winning art critic, filmmaker, and television commentator. Her critically acclaimed films, Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress and The Tangerine and Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here, remain in international demand. In her articles, books, media appearances – and more recently in her films – Wallach has chronicled, and known, artists from Willem de Kooning and Lee Krasner to Jasper Johns and Shirin Neshat. As an art writer, she watched Robert Rauschenberg make prints in New York and paintings in Captiva, Florida. She is uniquely able to tell this story. Wallach has written or contributed to more than a dozen books and was an on-air arts commentator for the PBS M acNeil/Lehrer Newshour. Her articles have appeared in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Smithsonian, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Art in America, and ARTnews. 




“While not a biopic of the artist per se, Taking Venice gives viewers a better appreciation of Rauschenberg and how art can be strategic beyond what an artist might intend.” – Valerie Kalfrin, AWFJ.org

“Ultimately, Taking Venice is about how art can and sometimes does change society, for better and maybe sometimes for less better.” – Shana Nys Dambrot, LA Weekly/Village Voice

““a gripping journey into how deeply politics can infiltrate the arts” and “a fascinating expose on the U.S. government’s manipulation of the art world to counteract Communist influence during the Cold War.” He says that “every scene resonate(s) with the thrill of a spy mission” and calls it “a must-see for anyone interested in the crossroads of art, history and politics.” –

“With audiences expecting more unique footage in similar documentaries today, Taking Venice does not quite stand out from the crowd. However, it’s an exciting ride, especially for Rauschenberg fans.” – Alan French, Sunshine State Cineplex

“The account is well-told and worth knowing, even without conspiratorial murmurs.” – Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times