Beijing is dusting itself off after a recent sandstorm ahead of the arrival of 28 world leaders this weekend for China’s inaugural Belt and Road Forum. President Xi Jinping’s signature policy aims to revive two historic trade routes between Asia and Europe and the Chinese premier will host a roundtable with regional leaders and like-minded autocrats, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. China claims to have spent $50bn (€46bn) on belt-and-road infrastructure so far and many delegations will arrive with cap in hand; China’s central bank is even minting a commemorative coin to mark the event. The prime ministers of Spain, Italy and Greece will lead the delegation from Europe but just why the leaders of Argentina and Chile are making the journey is anyone’s guess. A selfie with all of those strongmen perhaps?
As the art world hops from vaporetto to vernissage, between palazzo and national pavilion, there’s one debut at the Venice Biennale that’s particularly significant. Today Tunisia debuts its first official presence at the biennale since 1958 – the year after it gained its independence – and takes over three charged locations around the city, including an old naval checkpoint at the entrance to the Arsenale. The show imagines “a world connected in the truest sense of the word,” according to curator Lina Lazaar, and sounds a tad ephemeral to us (there are kiosks issuing “universal-travel documents” as a performance). But at the helm is the scion of one of Tunisia’s most active patron families; Lazaar has previously worked to keep Tunis on the art map despite its roiling political troubles. She’s now taking that to the heart of the action.
Few peaceful acts of protest are as symbolic as the toppling of a statue. To the list of Saddam Hussein’s likeness being pulled down in Baghdad in 2003, the falling of the Lenins in Ukraine and the 2015 removal of a stone Cecil Rhodes in Cape Town, we can now add the destruction of a Hugo Chávez statue in a town in western Venezuela. It came this week amid protests against the government of Nicolás Maduro – Chávez’s hand-picked successor – that have seen hundreds of thousands of people pour onto the streets. Maduro has responded by calling for a change to the constitution, which would further entrench his power. The downing of Chávez’s statue may have made headlines but, as the protesters know full well, it will take far more to topple the government.
Amazon continues to expand its offline empire with the launch of Prime Live Events. After a foray into offering pre-sale tickets to concerts, the retail giant is now organising its own live gigs in small venues with tickets available exclusively to subscribers of its Prime service – the first being a gig by Blondie at London’s Round Chapel on 23 May. Having built half a dozen bricks-and-mortar bookshops in the US, with murmurings that it could one day open grocery stores and electronics shops too, Amazon’s move into live events highlights the importance that it is putting on tangible experiences, whether that’s buying a book or listening to music. That said, the company clearly isn’t about to scale back its online offerings: each live performance will also be streamed online.