Venice Biennale 2019 (La Biennale di Venezia)
May 11 - November 24
From May to November, the Venice Biennale (la Biennale di Venezia in its original Italian, and in English also called the Venice Biennial) is one of the world’s most prestigious cultural happenings, famous for displaying new trends and launching the international careers of many an artist and architect. For every new edition, the management of the Venice Biennale select top curators from all over the world to organise the Biennale’s pioneering art exhibitions.
The first Venice Biennale was held in 1895 with long pauses during both world wars. Today a distinction is made between the different art disciplines: visual arts, architecture, music, theatre and dance. The art biennale is held on odd-numbered years and the architectural biennale on even-numbered years, while the famous film festival is held every year.
Theme of the Venice Biennale 2019
This year’s theme is called ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’, referring to what is erroneously believed to be an old Chinese curse. According to Ralph Rugoff, who is the artistic director of this year’s Venice Biennale, the way with which misunderstandings, translation errors and fake news can have serious repercussions in the following decennia, forms the foundation of the Biennale’s theme. He explains that the theme is not meant to be like the curse that suggests you’d better live an untroubled and steady life, but more like a challenge where art can help us navigate a world confronted with crises and changes that cause fear, despair and frustration.
For another arts extravaganza further from home, check out the Setouchi Triennale in Japan.
Ralph Rugoff, who has written for many art publications, is since 2006 the director of the Hayward Gallery in London and was also the artistic director of the 2015 Lyon Biennale. He has selected works from many dozens of artists for the Biennale’s central pavilion. This year’s artists include Slavs and Tatars, John Rafman, Augustas Serapinas, Jeppe Hein, Tarek Atoui, Ryoji Ikeda, Christoph Büchel, Soham Gupta, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Otobong Nkanga, amongst others.
This year’s 58th edition will see a strong presence of female artists such as the contemporary artist Narine Arakelian who will headline the official opening of the Armenian Pavilion and launch “The Pharos Flower”, a light installation and exhibition at the landmark Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. Other female artists to look out for include Mexican-born Renata Morales with her “Invasor” exhibition, the late abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler, and Polish artist and photographer Alexandra Karpowicz with her “Body as Home” installation.
In imitation of the film festival, the art biennale also awards a Golden Lion to the most appreciated contribution.
Special events during the Venice Biennale 2019
During this year’s Biennale, four special events will take place at different periods:
- International Festival of Contemporary Dance (13th edition): directed by Marie Chouinard, from 21 to 30 June.
- International Theatre Festival (47th edition): directed by Antonio Latella, from 22 July to 5 August.
- Venice International Film Festival (76th edition): directed by Alberto Barbera, from 28 August to 7 September.
- International Festival of Contemporary Music (63rd edition): directed by Yvan Fedele, from 27 September to 6 October.
Where are the exhibition areas of the Venice Biennale?
The Venice Biennale is situated at two locations in the eastern part of Venice: the Arsenale, and the Giardini in the area of the city called Castello. The Arsenale used to be the largest pre-industrial production centre in the world and has been transformed into a 50,000 sqm exhibition space. The Giardini, which is a park-like area, hosts the central pavilion together with 29 national pavilions that represent specific countries or regions. These pavilions are permanent and managed by the ministries of culture of their respective countries. Countries that do not have their own pavilion host their exhibitions in different buildings scattered across the historical city. This edition will see 90 nations featured at the Biennale with five new first-time countries Ghana, Algeria, Madagascar, Malaysia and Pakistan.
The Giardini reflects to a great extend the geopolitical relationships of the 20th century, but it is also a place that has undergone a profound transformation during the last 100 years. Originally, the country pavilions were meant as exhibition places based on 19th century concepts of nationalism. During the 20th century, these views made room for an unconditional belief in the universal values of modernism. Today shows that both views are outdated, with a permanent flux of humans and objects breaking through national boundaries, leading to the creation of new identities. Places and societies now mix and interweave with one another in our globalised world.
When is the Venice Biennale?
This year 2019 is the Venice Biennale’s 58th edition, open to the public from 11 May to 24 November in the Giardini and the Arsenale. It’s closed on Mondays except on 13 May, 2 September and 18 November. Opening times are from 10 am to 6 pm with the Arsenale open till 8 pm on all Fridays and Saturdays until 5 October.
The awards ceremony will take place on Saturday 11 May.
To make your visit worthwhile, it’s best to reserve at least five days, unless you have put together in advance your own curated list of your favourite spots to visit.
Tickets and prices for the Venice Biennale 2019
Regular tickets cost 25 EUR and grant one admission to each exhibition venue while PLUS tickets are 35 EUR entitling you to multiple visits for three days to each exhibition venue. There are reduced prices for students, senior citizens, groups etc. – see the official website below for full details.
Accommodation during and flights to the Venice Biennale 2019
To find the best accommodation deals in Venice as well as the cheapest worldwide flights, please search via our booking portal, which compares prices between all the major booking sites.
For more information on the Venice Biennale 2019:
Visit the Biennale’s official website for full details on programming, venues, ticketing etc.
Cover image: Gonzalez-Foerster, Dominique: “Cosmorama”. All images courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia.