There are the Biennale’s Big Beasts, of course –
this year David Hockney’s ’82 Portraits
and 1 Still Life’ at the Ca’ Pesaro (each
painted in three days) and, at Palazzo
Grassi and Punta Della Dogana,
Damien Hirst’s ‘Treasures from the Wreck
of the Unbelievable’, which took ten years –
the pavilions in the Giardini
and the Arsenale; the freebies
in rented palaces and tenements.
And there are the abiding grand masters,
the Titians, Tinterettos, Tiepolos,
displayed in salons and basilicas;
the Bible transubstantiated into
oils and canvas, Latin verses made flesh.
And poor, visiting geniuses opting
for elsewhere – like Modigliani who stayed
five years near the Accademia
then chose the avant-garde Montmartre,
and whose ‘La Femme en Blouse Marine’
hangs in the Guggenheim Gallery
on the Grand Canal, worth seven figures.
This is a city of stratagems, opulence,
dissembling – each turn of a corner,
each slap of water on bricks in a canal;
no place for penniless innocents,
no place for those without reputations;
mercantile, mercenary, magnificent;
an improbable, floating metropolis.