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A Short History of the Venice Biennale Art Festival


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Breakfast New YorkLong considered a quintessential contemporary art exhibition, the Venice Biennale Art Festival draws in hundreds of artists and hundreds of thousands visitors to its shoreline every other (odd) year. Should you be planning a holiday in Venice, keep in mind that the next Biennale will be held in the spring of 2013, however, various ‘parts’ of the exhibition are actually presented every few months (of every year); so research a particular artistic discipline you’re interested in, and then book that perfect vacation rental accordingly.

What started as a simple showcase of local Italian artists in 1894 has morphed into the most prestigious exhibition the world has ever seen. International interest in the Biennale was sparked soon after the exhibitions began, with curators showing preference for increasingly new, and innovative, art representations. Whilst this show may have relied almost entirely on decorative arts at the start, its transition into modern art, and all that is visually appealing was quite swift.

By the early 1900s there were already several countries represented, yet the exhibition gained its premium momentum in the years between the two World Wars.

By the mid-30s art disciplines like music, cinema and theatre were included, which saw the inception of the world-famous Venice Film Festival in 1936.

By 1999 dance and ballet were also included, rounding off this art fair in beautiful fashion.

Nowadays, over 80 countries are represented, in innumerable pavilions spread out throughout Venice. From the wonderful to the bizarre to the utterly questionable (think colossal chandeliers made entirely of shrink-wrapped tampons), the art on show ought to inspire, and sometimes puzzle, the most discerning of art enthusiasts.

Organized and well-established pavilions are to be found in the Giardini della Biennale, an area of parkland (between St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace in Castello), now exclusively dedicated to hosting permanent exhibition which are part of the Biennale.

Temporary exhibitions, as well as often Festivals, such as that of Modern Dance, Music, Theatre and Architecture are scattered throughout the city, giving visitors an even better reason to get lost and explore Venice’s nooks and crannies, and especially the city’s museums, libraries, palaces and theatres. The Arsenale gifts a particularly intriguing visit, mostly because it is only open to the public when an exhibition is showing as part of the Biennale. The Arsenale is a closed roof space of almost 50,000m², which was the ancient production dock for the city of Venice.

The fleet of the Serenissima was built here, so the Arsenale represents an iconic part of Venice’s military and naval history. The Arsenale was first used to host the architectural exhibitions of the Biennale in the 1980s, and it has found a rather honourable and worthy use in the last three decades.

Do yourself a favour and include at least one Biennale exhibition during your next visit to Venice; we guarantee you’ll be enthralled and enticed no matter how honed in your artistic instincts are. If not, never mind, you are after all…in Venice! PS: Careful! The biennale is the most popular event in Venice (yes! it attracts more visitors than the carnival!) so make sure you book your Venice apartment well in advance! As we always say Early Bird, Happy Bird!

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