La Biennale di Venezia – the basics

biennale logo

Gallergry provides a guided reflection.
Follow the blog or the art reflection workshop ‘May you reflect on interesting times’ available upon request.

For reservations and more information:

Some basics on the Biennale to help understand the 58th International Art Exhibition ‘May you live in interesting times’ curated by Ralph Rugoff.

The idea of a national art exhibition rapidly evolved into the proposal for an international art exhibition. The first talks were held in 1893 and in 1895 it premiered. It wasn’t a Biennale from the start. This more or less happened over time, with some gaps due to wars and such.

Giardini was the playground in which it all started to happen. A special building to host the event was erected and the show was on. When launched, it was an immediate success and some countries got so excited that they wanted to build their own buildings to showcase their own artists. And so the pavilions as we still know them today started to exist, still functioning in the same way. They have their own curators, own titles, own artists, own shows. Belgium was the first to open in 1907. Still nowadays there are countries that participate for the very first time. They are the National Participations and they follow their own track. Of course, they are invited to interact with the theme of the International Exhibition, but basically they are free to do as they please.
The pavilions in Giardini each have their own very special history and if you’re interested I can suggest you the book ‘Guide to the Pavilions of the Venice Biennale since 1887’ by Marco Mulazzani, which is available in the Biennale bookstores in Giardini and Arsenale (nice note here, the bookstore of Arsenale is opened to the public also without an entry ticket, as are the bathrooms there).

Building new pavilions in the Giardini is blocked for now and countries are invited to look for a venue outside of the Biennale grounds (spread out over the city) or have a short term or longer term contribution inside the Arsenale in return for a contribution to restore and preserve the Arsenale, which is in use as an official location for the Biennale as of 1980, the year in which the Architecture sector was set up.

Oh yes, Biennale is not just about art (odd years). As seen on the logo with this article you can also expect the Biennale to provide you with architecture (even years), cinema, dance, music, theatre and an archive to document all that has happened, is happening now and stuff yet to come (last sectors every year). All of these sectors have their own team and organization. The foundation La Biennale di Venezia is their shared home and appoints a changing curator for each event.

The changing creators and changing times in which creation takes place are combined with locations and core values that are less influenced by changes. It provides an overview on what is out there and considered to be of importance right now by different groups of people throughout almost the entire world.

It is the first Biennial of the world and still the most important one.
It aims to be not politically involved to be able to create a global stage. In a way like the Olympics. But as art is quite often quite political, the Biennale in itself is a beautiful paradox, like art can be. Intrinsically art raises questions and is influenced by and reacts upon history and society. So it is with the Biennale. They are both tools to investigate our world from different angles.

If you’d like to dig into the history in depth, you can visit the historical archives with a lot of info online asac and offline asac which also takes on the shape of a library neighboring the Giardini (Calle Paludo Sant’Antonio, 30122 Venice, opened Tuesday to Friday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm).
Furthermore the Biennale has an overview of the most interesting historical events in chronological order on their website.

To help you perceive the exhibitions the Biennale set up several educational activities.

After having collaborated with the educational department of La Biennale di Venezia for two years, this year Gryanne Stunnenberg is lecturer at the European Cultural Academy as expert on the Biennale and the exhibition inside Giardini and Arsenale.

GALLERGRY makes the art reflection workshop ‘May you reflect on interesting times’ available upon request.

For reservations and more information, please write to

This blog will grow and feed you with more info throughout time. Stay tuned.

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