Venice’s Biennale Art Festival

Festival Essentials

Where: Venice, Veneto, Northern Italy
When: Annually, May to September
What happens: Huge international art fair in an epic setting, featuring contemporary and performance art from around the world
Remember to bring: A taste for exploration


Art in Venice

Venice is jam-packed with famous artwork, from the Renaissance to the twentieth century.BelliniTitian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Tiepolo, and Canaletto are all great Venetian artists whose works can be found in many of the churches, arts schools, and museums throughout the city. Modern artwork is well-represented at the Guggenheim Museum inDorsoduro, with works by many of the twentieth century greats like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Jackson Pollock.

History of the Venice Biennale

Nowadays it seems every international city must have an art festival (biennale) but Venice is still the jewel in the art world’s crown partly because it held the first – over a hundred years ago – but mainly because of its fabulous setting.

The Venice Biennale has for over a century been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Ever since its foundation in 1895, it has been part of the avant-garde, promoting new artistic trends and organising international events in the contemporary arts in accordance with its own unique multi-disciplinary model. It was originally supposed to celebrate the silver anniversary of King Umberto and Margherita of Savoy, however, the Venetian Mayor of the time was also keen to transform artists’ evening meetings at the famous Caffe’ Florian in St. Mark’s Square into a prestigious international art exhibition.

What happens at the Venice Biennale today?

Every year the festival runs from May to September with most of the activity centred around the Giardini di Castello in the east of the city. Here you’ll find most of the national pavilions and the restored Arsenale where many different nations present their nation’s artists artwork in pavilions. But with more and more countries taking part every year, 70 at the last count, those without pavilions are staging exhibitions all over Venice, in crumbling palazzos and old churches. Recent participating countries include Afghanistan, Belarus, and Uzbekistan.

51st Venice Biennale – 2005

For the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, renowned Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist took advantage of the rare Venetian trait of the Church of San Stae of the Grand Canal having no painting on its ceiling, so the artist projected onto it her own feminist-slanted vision of paradise. The projections opened a gate to heaven to transport the view into a serene paradise before the fall of man. Expect to see plenty of extremely modern forms of art at the Biennale – performance art, in your face art, video art, and men dressed as gorillas running round driving everyone crazy.



La Biennale di Venezia
Official website for the art festival


By Nicole Dudley