Some Facts about the Biennale of Venice

The Biennale of Venice

The Biennale of Venice is one of the most important and most famous exhibitions of modern and contemporary art in the world. It housed the works of art of the greatest artists of the 20th century and still houses those of the most important artists of our time.

It was inaugurated in 1895 in the Giardini Napoleonici where the pavilions of the first 30 participating countries are situated: Italy, Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, Austria, Holland, and many others. 

The pavilions were built by famous international architects such as Carlo Scarpa (Italy), Alvar Aalto (Finland), Joseph Hoffmann (Austria) and James Stirling (Great Britain).

Modern and Contemporary Art

Loved and criticized at the same time, modern and contemporary art often provokes discussions and provides new opportunities to reflect. In Venice, every edition is remembered for a particular event.

The opening of the first exhibition caused a scandal due to the work by Giacomo Grosso (1860-1938), “Supremo convegno” (English: “Supreme Meeting”), but the following editions were controversial too since the Avant-guard movements played the main role in the 20th century.

In 1899 Klimt displayed “Judith II” and in the following years artists like Renoir and Courbet (1910), Matisse, Cézanne, and Van Gogh (1920), Chagall (1928), De Chirico (1930), Picasso, Dalì, Kandinskij and Mirò (1948), Pollock (1950) and Damien Hirst (1993) could expose their artworks at the Biennale. 

In 1999 the exhibition became famous due to “La nona ora” (English: “The Ninth Hour”) by Maurizio Cattelan, whose statue representing Pope John Paul II laying on the floor stuck by a meteorite, scandalized the Church. Actually, this provocative image hides a Christian message: despite all difficulties that pope, who was still alive at that time and symbolizes all human beings, could cope with the evil (the meteorite) grabbing at the cross. 

The International Film Festival and the Other Sectors of the Biennale 

With the passing of time the Biennale of Venice opened also to other performing arts. The first Film Festival (in Italian: “Mostra d’Arte Cinematografica”) in the world was inaugurated in 1932 and it is held every year between the end of August and the beginning of September at the Palazzo del Cinema, a modern style building built by the architect Luigi Quagliata on the Lido island. The first film to be shown was "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Rouben Mamoulian.

Every year the winner of the festival receives the Golden Lion which is also a homage to the symbol of the city, St. Mark’s lion.

Today the programme of the film festival is rich in events ranging from films to spectacles, from interviews to actors and directors to parties on the beach and in many places on the island it is possible to meet actors, international DJs, and journalists both at Hotel Excelsior and at the Quintessentially – WinWin Azimut Terrace, a very large terrace in front of the sea with a lounge bar area and a stage for performances.

Besides the Art Biennale and the International Film Festival Venice also houses every year the Music Festival (opened in 1930), the Theatre Festival (since 1934), the Biennale of Architecture (since 1980) and the Festival of Contemporary Dance (opened in 1999). Each one highlights contemporary trends in their field.

Biennale Architecture and the Vatican Pavilion

The Biennale Architecture takes place every year in even-numbered years compared to the Art Biennale and one of the most famous editions was “Freespace”, held in 2018. That year the Biennale went down to history for the “Vatican Chapels” built on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, that is 10 temporary chapels built around the Vatican Pavilion. This debut of the Holy See symbolizes the willingness of the Church to reconcile with contemporary art which had scandalized it for a long time.  

The chapels, all different, and the Asplund Pavilion were built by famous international architects like Andrew D. Berman (USA), Francesco Cellini (Italy), Javier Corvalàn Espínola (Paraguay), Flores & Prats (Spain), Norman Foster (Great Britain), Terunobu Fujimori (Japan), Sean Godsell (Australia), Carla Juacaba (Brazil), Smiljan Radic Clarke (Chile) e Eduardo Souto de Moura (Portugal). Each represents the culture and the thinking of various countries in the world.

The Biennale of Venice is always an event not to be missed. It involves different performing art fields and through its provocations it provides new ways and opportunities to reflect. 

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