Venice Biennale: Wikis


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Biennalist Giardini Main Entrance
Detail of exhibition.
View of "Pump Room", a work by the Hungarian artist Balázs Kicsiny at the Venice Biennale in 2005.

The Venice Biennale (Italian: Biennale di Venezia; also called in English the "Venice Biennial") is a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place once every two years (in odd years) in Venice, Italy. The Venice Film Festival is part of it, as is the Venice Biennale of Architecture, which is held in even years. A dance section, the "International Festival of Contemporary Dance", was established in 1999.[1]



The first Biennale was held in 1895; during the first editions, decorative arts played an important role. The event became more and more international in the first decades of the 20th century: from 1907 on, several countries started installing national pavilions at the exhibition. After World War I, the Biennale showed increasing interest in innovative traditions in modern art. Between the two World Wars, many important modern artists had their work exhibited there.

In 1930, control of the Biennale passed from the Venice city council to the national Fascist government. In the 1930s, several new sections of the event were established: the Music Festival in 1930, the International Film Festival in 1932 and the Theatre Festival in 1934. From 1938, Grand Prizes were awarded in the art exhibition section.

After a six-year break during World War II, the Biennale was resumed in 1948 with renewed attention to avant-garde movements in European, and later worldwide, movements in contemporary art. Abstract expressionism was introduced in the 1950s, pop art in the 1960s. From 1948 to 1972, Italian architect Carlo Scarpa did a series of remarkable interventions in the Biennales exhibition spaces.

The protests of 1968 marked a crisis for the Biennale; the Grand Prizes were abandoned and more emphasis went to thematic exhibitions instead of monographic ones. The 1974 edition was entirely dedicated to Chile, as a major cultural protest against the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. New prizes - Golden Lions, like the awards for the Venice Film Festival - were installed; postmodern art entered the scene with increasingly varied and popular exhibitions.

In 1980 Achille Bonito Oliva and Harald Szeemann introduced "Aperto", a section of the exhibition designed to explore emerging art. Italian art historian Giovanni Carandente directed the 1988 and 1990 editions. A three-year gap was left afterwards to make sure that the 1995 edition would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Biennale. The 1993 edition was directed by Achille Bonito Oliva while Jean Clair and Germano Celant served as directors in 1995 and 1997 respectively.

In 1999 and 2001, Harald Szeemann directed two editions in a row (48th & 49th) bringing in a larger representation of artists from Asia and Eastern Europe and more young artist than usual and expanded the show into several newly restored spaces of the Arsenale.

The 50th edition, directed by Francesco Bonami, had a record number of seven co-curators involved, including Hans Ulrich Obrist, Catherine David, Igor Zabel, Hou Hanru and Massimiliano Gioni.

The 51st edition of the Biennale opened in June 2005, curated, for the first time by two women, Maria de Corral and Rosa Martinez. De Corral organized "The Experience of Art" which included 41 artists, from past masters to younger figures. Rosa Martinez took over the Arsenale with "Always a Little Further." Drawing on "the myth of the romantic traveler" her exhibition involved 49 artists, ranging from the elegant to the profane.

At the 51st Biennale, American artist Barbara Kruger was awarded with the "Golden Lion" award for lifetime achievement.

In 2007, Robert Storr became the first director from the United States to curate the 52nd edition of the Biennale entitled Think with the Senses – Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense. This year, Mexico made its official debut at the Biennale with an exhibition by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer at the Van Axel palace.

Swedish curator Daniel Birnbaum has been appointed artistic director for the 2009 edition.


The formal Biennale is based at a park the Giardini that houses 30 permanent national pavilions. The assignment of the permanent pavilions was largely dictated by the international politics of the 1930s and the Cold War. There is no single format to how each country manages their pavilion. The pavilion for Great Britain is always managed by the British Council while the United States assigns the responsibility to a public gallery chosen by the Department of State. The Giardini includes a large exhibition hall that houses a themed exhibition curated by the Biennale's director.

The Aperto began as a fringe event for younger artists and artists of a national origin not represented by the permanent national pavilions. This is usually staged in the Arsenale and has become part of the formal biennale programme. In 1995 there was no Aperto so a number of participating countries hired venues to show exhibitions of emerging artists.

The national pavilions and their architects

The following list of the national pavilions (with completion dates and design architects) was taken from Martino, Enzo Di. The History of the Venice Biennale. venezia: Papiro Arte, 2007.

  • Italy - “Palazzo Pro Arte”: Enrico Trevisanato, façade by Marius De Maria and Bartholomeo Bezzi, 1895; new façade by Guido Cirilli, 1914; “Padiglione Italia”, present façade by Duilio Torres 1932. The pavilion has a sculpture garden by Carlo Scarpa, 1952 and the “Auditorium Pastor” by Valeriano Pastor, 1977.
  • Australia - Philip Cox, 1988
  • Austria - Joseph Hoffmann with the collaboration of Robert Kramreiter, 1934 (restored by Hans Hollein, 1984).
  • Belgium - Leon Sneyers, 1907 (totally restored by Virgilio Vallot, 1948).
  • Brazil - Amerigo Marchesin, 1964.
  • Canada - BBPR (Gian Luigi Banfi, Ludovico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, Enrico Peressutti, Ernesto Nathan Rogers), 1958.
  • Czechoslovakia - Otakar Novotn, 1926 (annex built by Boguslav Rychlinch, 1970).
  • Denmark - Carl Brummer, 1932 (annex designed by Peter Koch, 1958).
  • Finland - Alvar Aalto, 1956; restored by Fredrik Fogh with the collaboration of Elsa Makiniemi, 1976-1982.
  • France - Faust Finzi, 1912.
  • Germany - Daniele Donghi, 1909; rebuilt by Ernst Haiger, 1938.
  • Japan - Takamasa Yoshizaka, 1956
  • Great Britain - Edwin Alfred Rickards, 1909.[2]
  • Greece - Brenno Del Giudice, M. Papandre, 1934.
  • Iceland - At present it uses the Finnish pavilion.
  • Israel - Zeev Rechter, 1952 (modified by Fredrik Fogh, 1966).
  • Netherlands - Gustav Ferdninand Boberg, 1914 (rebuilt by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, 1954).
  • Russia - Aleksej V. Scusev, 1914.
  • Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland) - Sverre Fehn, 1962 (small annex built by Fredrik Fogh, 1987).
  • Spain - Javier de Luque, 1922 (façade restored by Joaquin Vaquero Palacios, 1952).
  • USA - Chester Holmes Aldrich, William Adams Delano, 1930.
  • Switzerland - Bruno Giacometti, 1952.
  • Hungary - Geza Rintel Maroti, 1909 (restored by Agost Benkhard, 1958).
  • Uruguay - Ex-warehouse of the Biennale, 1958, ceded to the government of Uruguay, 1960.
  • Venezuela - Carlo Scarpa, 1956.
  • “Venezia” Group of Pavilions - Brenno Del Giudice (Arti Decorative pavilion 1932); other pavilions (Yugoslavia, Romania, Latin America), 1938; Egypt was assigned a pavilion in 1952.
  • Ticket Office - Carlo Scarpa, 1951.
  • Book Shop - James Stirling, 1991.
  • South Korea - Seok Chul Kim, 1995.

The United States Pavilion



U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, circa 1933.

The United States Pavilion at the Venice Biennale was constructed in 1930[3] by the Grand Central Art Galleries, a nonprofit artists' cooperative established in 1922 by Walter Leighton Clark together with John Singer Sargent, Edmund Greacen, and others[4]. As stated in the Galleries' 1934 catalog, the organization's goal was to "give a broader field to American art; to exhibit in a larger way to a more numerous audience, not in New York alone but throughout the country, thus displaying to the world the inherent value which our art undoubtedly possesses."[5]

Having worked tirelessly to promote American art at home the 1920s, in 1930 Walter Leighton Clark and the Grand Central Art Galleries spearheaded the creation of the U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale[6]. Up until then there was no place at the Biennale dedicated to American art, and Clark felt that it was crucial to establishing the credentials of the nation's artists abroad[7]. The pavilion's architects were William Adams Delano, who also designed the Grand Central Art Galleries, and Chester Holmes Aldrich. The purchase of the land, design, and construction was paid for by the galleries and personally supervised by Clark. As he wrote in the 1934 catalog:

"Pursuing our purpose of putting American art prominently before the world, the directors a few years ago appropriated the sum of $25,000 for the erection of an exhibition building in Venice on the grounds of the International Biennial. Messrs. Delano and Aldrich generously donated the plans for this building which is constructed of Istrian marble and pink brick and more than holds its own with the twenty-five other buildings in the Park owned by the various European governments."[5]

The pavilion, owned and operated by the galleries, opened on May 4, 1930. Approximately 90 paintings and 12 sculptures were selected by Clark for the opening exhibition. Artists featured included Max Boehm, Hector Caser, Lillian Westcott Hale, Edward Hopper, Abraham Poole, Julius Rolshoven, Joseph Pollett, Eugene Savage, Elmer Shofeld, Ofelia Keelan, and African-American artist Henry Tanner. U.S. Ambassador John W. Garrett opened the show together with the Duke of Bergamo[8].

The Grand Central Art Galleries operated the U.S. Pavilion until 1954, when it was sold to the Museum of Modern Art. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s shows were organized by the Modern, Art Institute of Chicago, and Baltimore Museum of Art. The Modern withdrew from the Biennale in 1964, and the United States Information Agency ran the Pavilion until it was sold to the Guggenheim Museum courtesy of funds provided by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection[9].


Partial list of exhibitors at the United States Pavilion[10]:

Frank Stella

The British Pavilion

List of exhibitors in the British Pavilion[2]:

The Canadian Pavilion


  1. ^ La Biennale di Venezia
  2. ^ a b See more on Britain at the Venice Biennale at British Council Website.
  3. ^ "American Art Show Opened at Venice," New York Times, May 5, 1930
  4. ^ "Painters and Sculptors' Gallery Association to Begin Work," New York Times, December 19, 1922
  5. ^ a b|1934 Grand Central Art Galleries catalog
  6. ^ "Venice to Exhibit Art of Americans," New York Times, March 6, 1932
  7. ^ "American Art Is Adrift for Biennale in Venice," New York Times, August 3, 2004
  8. ^ a b "American Art Show Opened at Venice," New York Times, May 5, 1930
  9. ^
  10. ^ La Biennale di Venezia - Chelsea Art Galleries

Further reading

See also

External links


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