The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007


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Here is Whistler's award-winning painting:

In , the Biennale was for the first time curated by two women, Maria de Corral and Rosa Martinez. De Corral organized The Experience of Art which included 41 artists, from past masters to younger figures, while Rosa Martinez took over the Arsenale with Always a Little Further , bringing together 49 artists. The first African-born curator was selected only in , when Okwui Enwezor took the reins. In , Kenya announced its first-ever participation at the 55th Venice Biennale. None of the foreign artists had ever been to Africa or even referenced the continent in their work.

Biennale has been much criticized in recent years. Still, the preview days continue to bring 25, artists, collectors, curators, museum directors and journalists into the city, followed by , visitors in the months after. Born in New York, Rugoff is only the second American to be tapped for the job, first being Robert Storr who curated the exhibition in Eighty-seven countries will present pavilions during the exhibition, an all-time record.

The 58th Venice Biennale is taking place between May 11 and November 24, All image Creative Commons. Art Exhibitions Balasz Takac. Art Exhibitions Elena Martinique. Art News Angie Kordic. Remember me on this computer Forgot Password.

History of Biennale Arte

Are you a business user? Click here. Subscribe Yes, add me to your mailing lists. Check your inbox or spam folder to confirm your subscription. May 8, The Biennale of featured Surrealism. The works of Courbet, Munch, Klee, and Magritte were exhibited in their respective pavilions. Under the direction of the new General Secretary Gian Alberto Dell'Acqua, who was in charge from to , the Biennale contributed significantly to the diffusion of contemporary art.

The 24th Biennale exhibition in was particularly significant due to its reconsideration of the avant-garde, also made possible thanks to the commitment of the foreign pavilions. The General Secretary Rodolfo Pallucchini , capable of interpreting these demands, organised the first five Biennale editions after the war from to This long time span allowed him to present quite a comprehensive view of European avant-guardism from which Dadaism still remained excluded.

He thus succeeded in rendering contemporary art more accessible to the Italian public. Two major events were the retrospective of Picasso with 19 paintings his first appearance at the Biennale at the age of 67 presented by Guttuso, and the Peggy Guggenheim collection works by 73 artists presented by Giulio Carlo Argan. This entered contemporary art into lively debate, thanks to the presence of the most advanced trends, such as Cubism and Surrealism. Only fifteen countries participated in this edition, as many nations were still recovering from the war.

Empty pavilions were used to host special exhibitions such as Impressionism in the German Pavilion, and the Guggenheim collection in the Greek Pavilion. The latter however, did not agree with the curatorial choices of Francesco Arcangeli, and opened up a law suit, which was only to be concluded in De Chirico refused to exhibit at the Biennale until , when he presented 36 paintings in a personal exhibition.

Giuseppe Marchiori curated an exhibition entitled Il Fronte Nuovo delle Arti , from which the Realist movement and the Group of Eight emerged in following years. The national pavilions also organised important exhibitions. The central pavilion featured a personal exhibition of Paul Klee and another dedicated to German artists repudiated by Nazism. The great Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa carried out a series of particularly interesting installations and interventions for the Biennale during the post-war period from to In Scarpa curated the installation of the Guggenheim collection , as well as the distinctive lay out of the Paul Klee room.

His work linked contemporary architecture to the specificity of the Venetian environment and its traditional craftsmanship. In Scarpa designed the Alberto Viani room, and around forty other rooms in Futhermore, he designed the interior of the Italian Pavilion in , , and , building a false ceiling in the main hall, thus doubling the exhibition space. His installation of the Fontana room became famous in , featuring cubic pedestals specifically designed for the artist's sinuous sculptures.

An Alternative Guide to the Eternal City, 1989-2014

In the period after the First World War, the Biennale showed an increasing interest towards the most innovative artistic trends, thanks to the new General Secretary Vittorio Pica, that had been interested in the Impressionists since In Pica presented the first retrospective of Modigliani's work, and in that same year organised an exhibition of African sculpture, which both caused much controversy.

The term "primitive" was used in a pejorative sense for African sculpture, whilst Modigliani's disorganised life was emphasised. However, in the second retrospective in , there were no traces of such criticism. Furthermore, Vittorio Pica was able to impose his decision to exhibit six watercolours by Van Dongen, in spite of the opposition by the Board and of the new Mayor of Venice, Davide Giordano. Meanwhile in Filippo Grimani had lost the title of Mayor of Venice and likewise the position of President of the Biennale.

The Giordano Commitee, worried by the new daring artistic trends embraced by Pica, set up a Board of 7 members becoming 8 in and 13 in to join the General Secretary. He appointed the new General Secretary, Antonio Maraini. The first exhibitions generally followed contemporary trends in interior design and furnishing found in Salons and picture galleries , after the prevailing fashion of the neoclassical style of museums.

Venice Art Biennale

Romolo Bazzoni, author of the first history of the Biennale, noted that "in such a large space, paintings and statues didn't always show up well". Since the Biennale studied the most suitable solutions for the positioning of the works to be exhibited, mainly in the somewhat disorganised central pavilion. In that year the first General Secretary Antonio Fradeletto introduced decoration as an autonomous artistic style , with the interior design of seven regional Italian rooms.

In , Giulio Aristide Sartorio decorated the central hall with scenes of classical mythology. He painted four panels, each seven metres long and five metres high, two for each wall of the room. A few years later, on the event of the Biennale of , they came to be substituted by those by the painter Pieretto Bianco. The difficult relationship between the decoration, placing of the pieces, lighting, and furnishings, was dealt with with increasing awareness and originality thanks to international examples, influenced by exhibitions in Stockholm and Brussels and the Viennese Secession.

Since , the Austrian and German rooms came to be exemplary in their design by the work of leading figures in furnishing such as Emanuel Seidl, Bruno Paul, and Joseph Urban. The Austrian hall was designed by E. I Wimmer in The room, which was later to become famous, hosted a personal exhibition of Klimt. In , Galileo Chini , one of the most active Italian decorators, was inspired by the Art Nouveau style for the decoration of the rooms hosting the Symbolist exhibition The Art of Dream.

In , on the event of the eighth Biennale, Fradeletto wished to try another experiment with mural decoration, this time directly painted onto the walls of the domed entrance hall of the main pavilion. The execution of the works was again entrusted to Chini, who depicted the most illustrious periods of civilisation and art painted onto the eight segments of the dome. In Chini also decorated the central hall on the event of the eleventh Biennale, commissioned to substitute the panels painted by Pieretto Bianco in The first foreign pavilion was that of Belgium built in under the initiative of Prof.

Fierens-Gevaert, the Belgian general director of Fine arts. Three new pavilions were built for the eighth Biennale of The British Pavilion was not entirely built from scratch, instead the architect Edwin Alfred Rickards modernised an existing building, its interior decoration carried out by Frank Brangwyn. The pavilion initially hosted Bavarian art, and from , works from all over Germany. Closed during the war, it reopened in exhibiting works from the then Federal Republic of the German Reich. Property of the Venice City Council, in it was taken over by the German goverment, and rebuilt under Hitler's order substituted by a more modern design by Ernst Haiger.

The mosaics were realised by Miksa Roth, based on drawings by A. At the Biennale of , an exhibition was set up elsewhere to allow for the restoration of the damaged pavilion, but continued delays meant that it remained closed until , when Agost Benkhard partially reconstructed it.

The French and Swedish pavilions were built in , both designed and constructed by the Biennale. The French pavilion was inaugurated with a personal exhibition of Rodin's work. In , the Swedish Pavilion was handed over to the Netherlands. In the Dutch pavilion was demolished and reconstructed on the same site, designed by Gerrit Rietveld, one of the architects belonging to the De Stijl movement.

The Russian pavilion was built by Aleksej V. Scusev in With the arrival of Giuseppe Volpi as president , the Biennale began to organise exhibitions of Italian art abroad , and to curate the Italian participation in various important international exhibitions. In a major Italian art exhibition was set up in New York , and later in other American cities.

In the same initiative was realised in Europe, with exhibitions presented in various cities around Germany. In the Biennale organised an "exhibition of modern and contemporary art" in Paris , and a sculpture exhibition in Vienna. In following years, figurative art exhibitions were promoted in Budapest , Amsterdam , and Sydney.

One of these exhibitions was set up in five cities between Bucharest and Athens , before reaching India. A touring exhibition of Italian landscapes was set up in Warsaw in the autumn of ; later moving to Tallin where it remained until spring The Biennale continued to promote these initiatives abroad until the mid s. French art, which had been somewhat neglected in the first exhibitions, was finally included in the 4th Biennale of , through an Exhibition of French landscape painting.

Works by Corot and Millet landed in Venice, and Rodin's twenty sculptures of his personal exhibition received considerable success. French Impressionism, by this time a trend already established in Europe, was not considered in this period. There was instead an inclusion of American art: Sargent was presented a medal in and Barlett held a personal exhibtion in In , thanks to the intervention of Diaghilev, the Biennale invited both Repin, the Tolstoian witness of Russian tradition and Bakst, a famous costume and set designer for the Ballets Russes.

It was not however, until , that the presence of renowned international artists at the Biennale was so strong: a splendid Klimt room contrasted that of Renoir, also included in the exhibition were the retrospectives of Courbet and Monticelli. Expressionism, which was born in Dresden in , was presented in Venice in with an Ensor personal exhibition. Italian art was predominantly represented by 19th Century works both in the arrangement of the exhibits by region , and in the retrospectives dedicated to Fontanesi, Fattori, Signorini, and Cremona.

This trend came alongside the somewhat dated Symbolist style. The Art of Dream exhibition of , also including foreign simbolists, was a significant example of this. From onwards, a few young artists exhibiting in Ca' Pesaro and grouped together by the critic Nino Barbantini, strongly opposed to this trend which they considered to be too academic. It was only in that Medardo Rosso would have his personal exhibition at the Biennale.

From on, Fradeletto supported the building of the foreign pavilions 7 of them were already built before World War I. The ninth Biennale was held in , so as not to coincide with the great Art Exhbition which was to take place in Rome, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Kingdom of Italy. The Biennale then took place twice yearly until the interruption from to due to the First World War. There was a particular relationship between the Biennale and Picasso: In , Fradeletto, the General Secretary, had one of his pieces removed from the Spanish Pavilion, as he feared that Picasso's innovative artistic language may cause a public scandal.

Picasso's works were only to be exhibited at the Biennale in , thanks to a retrospective curated by Guttuso.

La Biennale di Venezia

The International Gallery of Modern Art in Venice was founded by Prince Alberto Giovannelli, who, at the second Biennale in , bought six art works of both Italian and foreign artists which he then donated to the City Council of Venice. The first premises of the gallery were at Ca' Foscari. Ca' Pesaro, a sixteenth century palace on the Grand Canal designed by Baldassarre Longhena, became property of the City Council of Venice in , following the death of Duchess Felicita Bevilacqua La Masa who expressed the wish to create a permanent exhibition space for the work of young artists.

The Gallery of Modern Art was then moved there, and the opening took place on 18th May, The management of Ca' Pesaro was entrusted to the Secretariat of the Biennale, but in , considering the growing importance of the gallery, it was decided that a director be appointed. Nino Barbantini, a young man of just 23 years of age, took up the position. He immediately started to study a suitable positioning of the art works, choosing to organise the works into national groups.


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The conflict between the Biennale and Barbantini started when Ca' Pesaro hosted its first exhibition in Fradeletto, the General Secretary of the Biennale, did not appreciate the young director's initiative. According to the wishes of Duchess Bevilacqua, Ca' Pesaro should only exhibit the work of young artists, not veterans of the Biennale.

There was a polemic debate about the use of the winged Lion of Saint Mark, which was already the logo of the Biennale, on the poster for the Ca' Pesaro exhibition. The annual exhibitions that took place at Ca' Pesaro from to , merely accentuated its independence, and the antagonism with the Biennale grew stronger due to the diverse artistic criteria that the two institutions adopted. These disagreements became all the more bitter in June , when a group of artists refused by the Biennale, organised a polemic exhibition at the Hotel Excelsior at Lido entitled an "Exhibition of some artists refused by the Venice Biennale".

That year, out of the artists who presented their work at the Biennale, only were accepted. The Venice Biennale was born by a resolution by the City Council on 19th April , which proposed the founding of a "biennial national artistic exhibition" to take place in the following year, to celebrate the silver anniversary of King Umberto and Margherita of Savoy. The event in fact took place two years later, on 30th April, In the period between the idea and its realisation, the commitment of the then Mayor of Venice Riccardo Selvatico turned out to be successful.

The organisation of the event started by the studying of a statute devised by a specially appointed commission, and inspired by the Secession in Munich. The decision was taken not only to invite major foreign and Italian artists, but to include also the works of uninvited Italian painters and sculptors. Each artist could participate with no more than two works, previously unexhibited in Italy. Three commitees were formed: one of Venetian artists to develop the program of the exhibition, another for promotion, and another for the Press.

Antonio Fradeletto was appointed General Secretary and became one of the most influential figures of the period.


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Thanks to his diplomatic skill he was involved in the selection of the artists, the installation of the exhibition, and later the construction of the foreign pavilions. The pavilion which was to host the first exhibition was feverishly built in the public gardens in Castello, just in time for the opening ceremony with the presence of King and Queen of Savoy, and the enthusiastic participation of the Venetian public. There were over , visitors at the first International Art Exhibition of the City of Venice later to be called the Biennale because it took place every two years.

The 58th Venice Biennale Exhibition: Meet Curator Ralph Rugoff

The special return train tickets, which included entrance to the exhibition, contributed to this great success. The major Prize, being the result of an impartial judgement, was attributed both to Giovanni Segantini, for his Return to Native Village, and to Francesco Paolo Michetti for his painting Jorio's Daughter: since two artistic trends were recognised, the most representative personalities were commended.

This piece was to win a prize by a popular referendum which took place at the closing of the exhibiton. On the event of the second exhibition of that year, together with the foundation of the Galleria d'Arte Moderna of Venice, the jury opted instead for the purchase of the art works for the benefit of national and local galleries. The same jury set up a Critic's Prize, with the intention of improving the promotion of the event.

On the one hand, this prize stimulated the production of articles and reviews, thus improving the quality of Italian art criticism in that period, and on the other, reached a milestone in the history of contemporary art criticism. French art was quite neglected in the first Biennale exhibitions, whereas the priviledged relationships with the Secession drew much attention to German art. Already in , Klimt's Judith II had been presented. In the meantime, the Biennale allowed a select few Italian artists, such as Michetti and Sartorio, the opportunity to exhibit in personal rooms, thus inaugurating the new formula of the personal exhibition which was to be adopted as of the third Biennale Exhibition in A painting included in the first International Art Exhibition of the City of Venice in stirred much commotion and curiosity: it was Giacomo Grosso's Supreme Meeting, a then famous artist, and a professor at the Accademia Albertina in Turin.

The work reached the exhibiton on the 10th April As soon as it was removed from its packing case, it astonished everyone who saw it.

The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007 The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007
The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007 The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007
The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007 The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007
The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007 The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007
The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007 The History of the Venice Biennal 1895-2007

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