Today one of the most important and glamorous events in the art-world calendar, the Venice Biennale has enjoyed a remarkably long lifespan. The first Biennale was held in April 1895 and showcased work by both Italian and foreign artists, with the initial instalment of the International Art Exhibition attracting some 200,000 visitors.
This year, until 26 November, Venice hosts the 57th edition of the Biennale. Events are held at the eastern edge of the city in the Arsenale — a former naval shipyard — and the Giardini, the public gardens laid out during the Napoleonic era, which hosts the national pavilions. Non-official events are also held around the city.
This year’s Biennale is curated by Christine Macel. Since 2000, Macel has been the Chief Curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, where she heads the museum’s contemporary art department. Taking as her theme Viva Arte Viva, Macel’s desire to explore ‘a common space beyond defined dimensions’ is reflected in nine ‘trans-pavilions’ — with names such as the Pavilion of Artists and Books, and the Pavilion of Time and Infinity — which seek to move the Biennale beyond its traditional division along national lines. Of the the 120 artists invited from 51 countries this year, 103 will be showing work in the Venice Biennale for the first time.
Beyond the Biennale, Venice is an endless source of artistic inspiration. For more ideas of what to do and see, check out our insider guide and related features, below. Divertiti!