The Venice Art Biennale, known as the International Art Exhibition, was founded in 1895 and takes place every two years, in odd-numbered years; normally running from late April until November.
Later in the 1930’s, new festivals were born, making their debut as part of Biennale family: Music (1930), Cinema (the Venice Film Festival in 1932 was the first film festival in history), Theatre (1934), the International Architecture Exhibition (1980), and Dance (1999).
To avoid confusion between the organisation and its exhibitions and festivals, the Venice Biennale under the legislative reform decree of January 2004; changed its name to the “Biennale Foundation” and the art exhibition’s title to the “Art Biennale”, (Italian: Biennale d’Arte).
THE BIENNALE FOUNDATION
The Venice Biennale has been for over 120 years, one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Established in 1895, the Biennale has an attendance today of over 500,000 visitors at the Art Exhibition.
The history of the La Biennale di Venezia dates back from 1895, when the first International Art Exhibition was organised. In the 1930’s new festivals were born: Music, Cinema, and Theatre (the Venice Film Festival in 1932 was the first film festival in history). In 1980 the first International Architecture Exhibition took place, and in 1999 Dance made its debut at La Biennale.
|Common name||Formal name||Founded||Frequency|
|Venice Art Biennale||International Art Exhibition||1895||Odd-numbered years|
|Venice Biennale of Architecture||International Architecture Exhibition||1980||Even-numbered years (since 2000)|
|Venice Biennale Musica||International Festival of Contemporary Music||1930||Annually (Sep/Oct)|
|Venice Biennale Teatro||International Theatre Festival||1934||Annually (Jul/Aug)|
|Venice Film Festival||Venice International Film Festival||1932||Annually (Aug/Sep)|
|Venice Dance Biennale||International Festival of Contemporary Dance||1999||Annually (June; biennially 2010–16)|
|—||International Kids’ Carnival||2009||Annually (during Carnevale)|
The offices of the Biennale are at Ca’ Giustinian, in the district of San Marco.
The president of the Biennale organisation, oversees its activities not only in art; but also architecture, film, dance, music and theatre. The President is nominated by the Minister for Cultural Affairs.
On the curatorial front, a new artistic director is picked to organise the central show at each art Biennale; a practice that began in the 1980’s. Every year a new exhibition theme is established – typically rather loose or vague.
Here are some recent themes: “May You Live in Interesting Times” – “All the World’s Futures” – “Making Worlds” – “Plateau of Humankind” – “Think with the Senses, Feel with the Mind“!
The main exhibition’s budget is supplemented by funds, contributed mostly by private individuals, foundations and philanthropists. As an example, in 2015, the budget for the international exhibition was around Euro 13 million.
See the complete management and organisational structure with contact details, at its website below.
The idea that gave birth to the Venice Biennale dates back to 1893, when the Venice City Council decided to create a biennial exhibition of Italian Art; to celebrate the silver anniversary of the Italian King Umberto I and Margherita of Savoy.
The first Venice Biennale, known as “Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia”, which is where the Central Pavilion is located today; was opened on April 30 1895, by the Italian King and Queen and attended by over 220.000 visitors. ” .
Already at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Venice Biennale became increasingly popular and international; soon leading to the creation of permanent national pavilions.
The first National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale was created for Belgium, by Leon Sneyers in 1907. By 1914, six more nations had been established permanently: Hungary, Germany, and Great Britain in 1909, France in 1912 and Russia in 1914.
Except for some rare exceptions, the international exhibition has been held every 2 years since its creation. However, from 1916 to 1918 and later from 1943 to 1946, the Venice Biennale was cancelled; because of the two World Wars.
In 1920, the first independent Venice Biennale President was appointed. Until then, this role was fulfilled by the Mayor of Venice.
In 1930, the Venice Biennale was transformed into an autonomous board and in 1931, its control passed from the Venice City Council to that of the national Fascist government under Mussolini.
This change brought increased funds and led to the creations of new events, such as the Music Biennale in 1930, the Biennale Venice Film Festival in 1932 and the Theatre Biennale in 1934; taking on the multidisciplinary character that the Venice Biennale has to this day.
After WWII, the Venice Biennale renewed its attention to avant-garde movements, introducing to a broader public, abstract expressionism and Pop Art; as well as classical Japanese Noh theatre shows and also Indian cinema.
In 1972, the Venice Biennale adopted for the first time a theme for its Art exhibition; which was “Work or Behaviour”.
Although Architecture works and Dance shows existed before, as part of the Venice Biennale; the Foundation created the Venice Biennale dedicated to Architecture in 1980 and the one devoted to Dance, in 2003.
For a full history, themes and award winners etc; please consult the Official Website / History Section – BELOW.
The Venice Biennale is unlike any other art biennale in existence.
Historically, it was the original event, which set the stage for other international exhibitions. Rather than being just a single big show organised by a single artistic director, it is a wild, freewheeling festival composed of numerous elements. It can be described as “a smorgasbord of art that not even the most voracious glutton could hope to consume”.
It is not just a time for artists, art dealers and celebrities to party and compete! About half a million art lovers attend the exhibitions over the period; bringing less frequented parts of the city to life.
Basically, the Biennale proper currently consists of three main parts:
- Central exhibition organised by an artistic director in the Central Pavilion in the Giardini public gardens and the Arsenale naval shipyard.
- National pavilions organised by participating countries at the Giardini and Arsenale; each offering a show of one or more artists.
- Those countries not owning a pavilion in the Giardini or at the Arsenale; are exhibited in Palazzos across Venice as well as on islands of the Venetian Lagoon. Since the locations can change, it is important to look on the Biennale website for information on the whereabouts of non-permanent pavilions.
There are also all sorts of other exhibitions and events that coincide with the Biennale, but are not officially affiliated with it.
Some are vanity shows put on by artists or others, hoping to catch the eyes of all the assembled art types. Others are ambitious affairs at the city’s museums and foundations; sometimes organised with the assistance of commercial galleries, that want to have a presence in the city during the action.
In addition, there are performances, panels and screenings as well as dinners and sundry parties. All the things that make the art world hum.
THE GIARDINI AND ARSENALE SITES
GIARDINI. Today, the Central Pavilion has become a multifunctional structure of 3,500 square meters, and the area around it counts 29 National Pavilions. The pavilions are the property of the individual countries and are managed by their Ministries of Culture.
These are the Nations which have a National Pavilion at the Giardini of the Venice Biennale: Belgium, Hungary, Germany, Great Britain, France, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Czech Republic and Slovak Republic, United States of America, Denmark, Venice, Austria, Greece, Israel, Switzerland, Venezuela, Japan, Finland, Canada, Uruguay, Nordic Countries: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Brazil, Australia and Korea.
ARSENALE. In 1980, the Arsenale opened the “Corderie dell’Arsenale” and the “Magazzini del Sale” which became the exhibition sites of the 1st International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Since then, the Arsenale is also used for the Art Biennale.
Today, the Arsenale hosts the Venice Biennale Pavilions of 23 Nations: Albania, Argentina, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Croatia, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Georgia, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Republic of Kosovo, Latvia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Republic of Slovenia, Republic of South Africa, Tunisia and Turkey.
The countries not owning a pavilion in the Giardini nor at the Arsenale are exhibited in Palazzos across Venice as well as on islands of the Venetian Lagoon. Since the locations can change every year, it is important to look on the Biennale website for information on the whereabouts of non-permanent pavilions.
The Venice Biennale has awarded prizes to the artists participating at the Exhibition, since the first edition back in 1895. Grand Prizes were established in 1938 and ran until 1968; when they were abolished due to the protest movement. Prizes were taken up again in 1986. The selections are made by the Board of la Biennale di Venezia; following the recommendations of the curator of the International Art Exhibition.
Also upon the recommendation of the curator, the Biennale names the five members of its international jury; which is charged with awarding prizes to the national pavilions.
The international jury awards:
- The Golden Lion for “best national participation”.
- The Golden Lion for “best participant in the international exhibition”.
- The Silver Lion for a “promising young participant” in the show.
- It may also designate ” one special mention to national participants” and a maximum of two “special mentions to artists in the international exhibition”.
- it may also award Golden Lions for “lifetime achievement”.
SOME HELPFUL TIPS
The two venues are about ten minutes’ walk apart. The nearest vaporetto stops are Arsenale and Giardini. In between the venues is Via Garibaldi, a broad and popular shopping street where you’ll find restaurants, food shops and other services.
A Biennale ticket includes access to both official venues, which you can visit on two separate days. Both include extensive exhibition areas, so you’ll need to allow a lot of time. The main exhibitions are closed on Mondays.
There is an enormous amount to see and assimilate and with its extensive exhibition areas there’s a lot of walking; so, it best to spread your visit of both sites over two days or more.
Each Biennale has a different curator and a different theme – something so vague that anything goes. If you are fortunate to have attended over several years; the exhibitions can become repetitive in their attempts to challenge or confront. The Biennale is best visited with patience and a sense of humour: remember art can seemingly be anything artists want it to be. Playing an amateur art critic, is all part of the fun!
I would recommend you take a bottle of water, find a programme with a map on it and allow time to wander and take breaks. Especially in the autumn, visitors would be advised to take insect repellent with them, or cover up in the gardens and areas close to water.
If you are planning a trip dedicated to art and want to stay near the Biennale venues; hotels in the Castello district will be the most convenient.
Other shows, hosted by pavilion-less countries, are held around Venice and give you a chance to explore private palaces for free. Various other events take place under the Biennale umbrella organisation, including the prestigious Venice Film Festival and a modern Dance festival. On even-numbered years there is an Architecture Biennale; which follows much the same pattern as the art one.
Finally, between June and August the temperatures in Venice tend to be high, the days humid and the city to be very crowded. Before mid-June and after mid-September, Venice is not as crowded and the days are not as hot and humid; making it possible to enjoy both the Venice Biennale and Venice and get less fatigued.
INFORMATION AND BOOKINGS
How to reach the exhibition halls. From Piazzale Roma / Train Station: for Arsenal: ACTV 1-4.1; for Gardens: ACTV 1-2-4.1-5.1-(6 from Piazzale Roma). Giardini-Arsenale venues are 15 minutes’ walk apart.
Tickets. Online or at the Arsenale and Giardini venues. Venues are closed on Mondays. Opening times 10.00 -18.00.
A one-entry ticket for the Art or the Architecture Biennale in Venice costs 25 euros . This gives access both to the Giardini and the Arsenale area allows you to access each location only once. The two sites, however, can be visited on different and non-consecutive days.
Week cards, permanent passes, and “Biennale Cards” are also available, and can only be purchased at the Venice Biennale entrance.
Check which type of ticket available is best for you. There are concessions, such as holders of various Venice tourist cards, students and under-26’s.
Exhibitions in Palazzos across the city and on the islands of the Lagoon have free entry.
There are limited services in both exhibitions: bar, restaurant and bookshop.
BIENNALE ARTE 2022 – 59TH INTERNATIONAL ART EXHIBITION – VENICE 23rd APRIL TO 27th NOVEMBER
The 59th International Art Exhibition will be titled The Milk of Dreams (Il latte dei sogni); curated by Cecilia Alemani. The theme’s name is borrowed from a book by Leonora Carrington and Alemani states: “the Surrealist artist describes a magical world where life is constantly re-envisioned through the prism of the imagination, and where everyone can change, be transformed, become something and someone else. The exhibition takes us on an imaginary journey through metamorphoses of the body and definitions of humanity.”
See the complete management and organisational structure of the “Biennale Foundation” with contact details: HERE
Official La Biennale Website in English: HERE
History Section of Official Website : HERE
For a more comprehensive list of exhibitions and awards, see List of Venice Biennale exhibitions. HERE
Tel. +39 041 5218711
Fax +39 041 2728329
Please see my other related posts in the category of “Festivals-Regattas-Events”: HERE
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