The Venice Biennale Need-To-Knows
The buzz in the art world right now is centred on the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale – the world’s oldest and, arguably, most prestigious art exhibition. Why is it such a big deal? Well, it only happens every two years but, due to the pandemic, it has had an extended absence and, this month, it is finally back.
Often nicknamed the Olympics of the art world, this year’s Biennale runs from 23 April to 27 November and is curated by Cecilia Alemani, director and chief curator of New York’s much-lauded High Line Art. This year’s theme will offer both new and historical perspectives with a surrealist slant. Hence the title – The Milk Of Dreams (Il Latte Dei Sogni in Italian) – is inspired by artist Leonora Carrington’s book for children, where imaginary new worlds are conceived with otherworldly elements.
This sentiment takes on particular resonance in light of the pandemic and the ways in which our lives have altered, at times, beyond recognition. The main exhibition will include 213 artists from 58 countries spread across the Biennale’s Giardini and Arsenale venues, as well as 80 national pavilions (several countries including Namibia and Uganda are exhibiting at the Biennale for the first time) and many more collateral events across the city of Venice. So, if you’re heading to the Biennale this year, here are a few tips:
- Two artists everyone has been talking about this year are Simone Leigh and Sonia Boyce. They are the first Black women to represent their countries (the US and UK respectively) at the Biennale. Don’t miss the work of these boundary-breaking artists.
- Outside of the official Biennale venues, there are numerous exhibitions dotted across the city worth exploring. Scotland + Venice pavilion, which features Alberta Whittle’s Deep Dive (Pause) Uncoiling Memory and Parasol Unit’s group exhibition Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained, is on the art world’s radar, alongside Danh Vo’s show with Isamu Noguchi and Park Seo-Bo at Fondazione Querini Stampalia, and Louise Nevelson at the Procuratie Vecchie.
- Visit some of Venice’s contemporary art institutions open all year round, such as the Surrealism And Magic: Enchanted Modernity exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Fondazione Prada Venice will be showing Human Brains.
- For atmosphere alone, the Caffè La Serra, close to the Giardini on Via Garibaldi, is a must – it is a 19th-century greenhouse built for the first art Biennale in 1894. For amazing pizza and pasta, try Trattoria Dai Tosi, also within walking distance of the Biennale.
- There is so much to see that you will invariably spend more time outside than in; however, if you want a hotel that delivers an incredibly indulgent Venetian experience, the Ca Maria Adele is one of the best in town.
Vanessa Peterson is a writer and associate editor of Frieze magazine, based in London