The Mysterious Magic of the Venice Art Biennale

The Venice Art Biennale is the most important contemporary art show in the world. For six months every other year, it takes over the entire city of Venice. But it’s much more than an art show. If you are at all interested in art, architecture or just a lover of Venice, you should consider extending your Venice trip for at least a couple of days in order to truly experience the Biennale.

A couple of hours or even a couple of days isn’t nearly enough time to experience all that this festival has to offer, but with careful planning you get a little taste … and maybe encouragement to come back for more.

Venice Art Biennale

The Biennale is not a traditional art show. Unlike commercial shows such as Art Basel which takes over Miami Beach every year, there is nothing for sale at the Biennale. It is truly an exhibition, just like the World’s Fair expositions that are still held every other year somewhere in the world. It’s the difference between the Super Bowl and the Olympics. The Biennale is the Olympics of the art world. And that analogy is more apt than it first seems. Art at the Biennale is presented by country, not by individual galleries. More than 89 different countries participated with pavilions throughout the city in 2019.

The Venice Art Biennale has been held every odd-numbered year from May to November since 1895, except for a few breaks mainly due to world wars. It is called the Biennale because it happens every second year.

In 1980, a Venice Architecture Biennale was established for even-numbered years; however, the Art Biennale is much bigger in scope and completely different in tone — more adventurous, more challenging. Someone who has attended both summed it up for me this way: “Architecture focuses on perfection, whereas art tends to focus more on the imperfection in life.”

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By Sharon Kenny

Photo: Matthias Scholz / Alamy Stock Photo