Venice Biennale, Italy

Every odd-numbered year, over 500,000 culture-vultures descend on Venice to be a part of one of the most prestigious contemporary art expositions of the world. Regarded as the ‘Olympics of the art word’, Venice Biennale was started back in 1895 to provide a platform for artists to showcase their artworks representing their home countries.

Venice Biennale

What’s more; alongside the main art show, there are numerous satellite exhibitions, special performances, parties, and not to forget the bustling energy of the Italian tourism hub- all to celebrate different forms of art including cinema, theatre, dance, and architecture.

The history of the Venice Biennale

In 1983 the Mayor of Venice, Riccardo Selvatico, passed a resolution to set up an exhibition to display the best Italian art within the city of Venice. The following year it was decided to extend invitations to foreign artists selected by a jury, and so began the international influence on the festival. The festival was to be held within a park in Venice and it was here that an exhibition space was built. It was completed in 1985 by the architect Enrico Trevisanato, with the façade was created by Italian artist Marius De Maria. Following the completion of the building, the festival was ready to go ahead, and it was finally opened by the King and Queen, Umberto I and Margherita di Savoia to crowds of 224,000. Within the exhibition space were rooms in which English and French artists (amongst others) were displaying their art alongside that of Italian artists. The festival continued to enjoy enormous success, displaying the work of influential artists every other year from around the world. The only time when the festival was not held was during the first and second World Wars.

Soon, countries such as Belgium, Holland, England, and Germany decided that they wanted their own exhibition spaces, so each country built its pavilions within the park. The first pavilion was made by Belgium and was created by Leo Sneyers in 1907. Hungary, Germany and Great Britain followed suit in 1909 with France adding to the collection of buildings in1912 and Russia in 1914. Each country manages its own pavilion and every Biennale year they decide upon an artist that will exhibit there. While the exhibitions are being set up there is much secrecy, with artists and organisers wanting to keep their ideas close to their chests. During this time, the windows and doors of the pavilions can be covered creating an atmosphere of an abandoned town. However, when the festival begins, the pavilions are suddenly full of life with visitors welcomed inside to admire the artworks.

In 1920, the Biennale appointed its first-ever president, therefore taking the responsibility away from the mayor of Venice. In 1931, after the creation of an independent board of organisers, the control of the festival was handed to the Fascist government under Mussolini. During this time the festival enjoyed higher levels of funding and the other Biennales (such as for film and music) were established.

After the Second World War, the festival began showcasing more abstract works as well as classical art from various Asian countries, bringing them to a wider audience. In 1972 the Biennale adopted a theme for the exhibitions for the first time. The very first theme was entitled ‘Work or Behaviour’.

Why is the Venice Biennale important?


The Biennale is important for many reasons. For starters, it was the first art exhibition of its kind and all others around the world were established because of the one in Venice. There are also several other Biennales in Venice, all of which split from the original (and more prestigious) artistic one. The other exhibitions display amazing examples of architecture, cinema, dance, music, and theatre. Today, the festival attracts over 500,000 visitors and the publicity afforded to the artists, and the art world, from this event, is fantastic. It is also important because it allows art to cross borders, having artists from around the world exhibiting side by side and harmoniously bringing the art world together.

When and where to see the Art Biennale?

Art Biennale

The 2019 Venice Biennale—officially entitled the 58th International Art Exhibition—will be thrown open for visitors from May 11 to November 24. In fact, this year, it will be all about architecture, with participants from over 71 countries spread out between the Arsenale, Giardini pavilion, and different locations all over the city. The theme for this year is “May You Live in Interesting Times” and is curated by Ralph Rugoff. However, the main site of the Art Biennale is the Giardini Pubblici (the Public Gardens), where you can witness the canopy of 30 pavilions for as many countries, set up for the big occasion.

Adding to your delight, the Biennale umbrella also presents a kid’s carnival, theatre festival, contemporary music fiesta, and of course the famous ‘Venice International Film Festival’, held in September on the Venice Lido.

Tips to visit the Venice Biennale

Local tip: Most of the art exhibitions and collateral events held outside the Arsenale and Giardini are usually free of admission. How to spot them? Just look for the red-coloured square with the icon of a white lion, the recognisable symbol of Biennale.

P.S. Some expos, events and venues do require the purchase of a ticket that could be bought from their official site. Regular tickets cost 25 euros and students can avail of great discounts as well!

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