The Venice Biennale 2024: Your Ultimate Guide - ART FIX
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The Venice Biennale 2024: Your Ultimate Guide

The moment you’ve been waiting for is finally back! The colossal art show that is the Venice Biennale is ringing in its 60th edition this year, and to celebrate its diamond anniversary we’ve rounded up our top picks: a sure-fire way to make your whistle-stop tour of the floating city of bridges and canals one for the ages.

The iconic international art festival is what is popularly referred to as ‘the Olympics of the art world,’ and gives each country a pavilion to showcase a nominated artist.

What is The Biennale? It consists of three parts:

(1) A central exhibition linked to that year’s theme. This year it’s curated by its first Latin American director, Brazilian Adriano curator Pedrosa, and is titled ‘Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere’. This is located in the central pavilion of the Giardini and at the former dockyards known as the Arsenale. The title of the exhibition is borrowed from a series of blazing red and green neon works by Claire Fontaine, the feminist art collective.

(2) National pavilions organized by 87 countries, each offering a show of one or more artists.

(3) Independently organized exhibitions across the city, titled “Collateral Events”.

To help you navigate the city we’ve created a useful map for you to have at-hand while you stroll along the Venetian canals. 

GIARDINI

The Giardini, a public park in Venice, is one of two main venues of the Venice Biennale. Here you will find the impressive central pavilion that houses part of the main exhibition ‘Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere’. Dotted around this building, you’ll find 29 of the national pavilions.

“Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere” by Adriano Pedrosa

In an increasingly globalized world, we regularly encounter foreigners but also often feel foreign ourselves. The Brazilian curator Adriana Pedrosa addresses this phenomenon by showcasing works by artists at the margins of the art world. Minorities and marginalized peoples are brought to the center at the most significant exhibition of the world. 

The Central pavilion looks very special this time: the usually stark white pavilion is now covered in brightly colored Amazonian paintings by Movimento dos Artistas Huni Kuinbringing, bringing the spirit of the forest, animals and the indigenous to Venice.

These neons are made by Claire Fontaine. A collective founded by Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill, an Italian-British artist duo who declared themselves her assistants. The neons presents a phrase coined by activists who fought xenophobia in Italy in the 2000s.

Nil Yalter, winner of the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement

Ione Saldanha

Eduardo Terrazas

Liz Collins

Sénèque Bbin

Madge Gill

Louis Fratino

Victor Fotso Nyie

Victor Fotso Nyie

Rosa Elena Curruchich

Evelyn Taocheng Wang

PROTESTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS

The title of this 60th Biennale “Foreigners Everywhere” is itself a kind of provocation, weighted by the anti-immigrant agendas in Italy, Hungary and more countries. Given this theme, protests were to be expected. Ruth Patir, the artist chosen to represent Israel in 2024, shut down her state-subsidized exhibition days before the Biennale opening in an act of protest over the war in Gaza.

Throughout the preview days of the Biennale, pro Palestinian protesters staged demonstrations in the Giardini. Around 100 protesters gathered around the closed pavilion of Israel and moved towards the US, France and Germany chanting “shut it down”and “shame on you”. Flyers stated: “No Death in Venice, No to the Genocide Pavilion.”

Russia is also sitting out this Biennale for the second time in a row, after its war with Ukraine broke out in 2022. This year, it is lending its pavilion to Bolivia – the decision was published months after news reported that Russia aimed to acquire Bolivia’s lithium reserves.

ART FIX’S TOP 10 NATIONAL PAVILIONS

As the Giardini and the Arsenale have limited space, some countries rent spaces in Venice to host their pavilions, transforming the city into a living and breathing exhibition space.

1. Holy See Pavilion: With My Own Eyes

  • Until 24 Nov ‘24
  • Casa di Reclusione Femminile, Calle de le Cape, 194, Guidecca
  • vaticannews.va

This year, the Vatican’s Pavilion is set inside a functioning women’s prison. Visiting this pavilion is an unforgettable and surreal experience. Be warned – you’ll have to surrender your phone to a guard and leave your passport before entering.

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Most artworks shown in the exhibition “With My Eyes” were created with the help of the female inmates. Maurizio Cattelan painted a pair of dirty feet in black and white J.R. style, on the outside façade of the prison’s chapel. It is a reference to Mantegna’s feet of Christ, and is the only work that is not visible to the inmates. 

Inside the prison, three inmates in elegant black and white smocks guide you from the prison staff coffee bar decorated with posters by Corita Kent into the courtyard with a neon Eye on the wall by Claire Fontaine. Visitors are then led into a gallery of 23 paintings by Claire Tabouret depicting the inmates as children or with a child, and on to a raw and touching film by Marco Perego starring his wife, actress Zoe Saldana, from Avatar.

The tour ends in the chapel with an installation by Sonia Gomes. Pope Francis visited the pavilion on April 28, where he met the inmates, making it the first papal visit at the Venice Biennale.

Art Fix tip: Because the exhibition takes place in a working penitentiary, you must book at least 48 hours in advance. Click here to make a reservation.

2. Italian Pavilion: Massimo Bartolini

Take a break at the impressive exhibition ‘Due qui / To hear’, a sound and environmental installation. We loved this imaginary garden, where one is urged to walk through a maze of scaffolding and sit at the circular minimalist water sculpture resembling a fountain. This immersive journey gets you in a meditative state and is the perfect place for reflection.

Bartolini’s sound and performance installation offers a moment to turn inward, as not to be a foreigner to oneself in order to encounter others more openly.

3. US Pavilion: Jeffrey Gibson

In line with the theme of the Biennale’s, the United States is represented by a solo exhibition of an indigenous Choctaw-Cherokee artist, Jeffrey Gibson.

The show is full of ultra bright bead-encrusted sculptures and hand painted murals with his signature riot of color, pattern and text.

4. German Pavilion: Yael Bartana and Ersan Mondtag

The German contribution to the Venice Biennale is titled “Thresholds”, and features space travel, booming sounds and a film about sci-fi beings and an apocalyptic story of humanity leaving the earth.

The artistic projects, the film by Yael Bartana and participatory performances by Ersan Mondtag are worth a visit.

5. Spanish Pavilion: Sandra Gamarra

Peruvian-Spanish artist Sandra Gamara is the first chosen mixed-race immigrant to represent Spain in more than a century of participation.

The Migrant Art Gallery is a subversion of a Western pinacotheca, in which the artist aims to create an institutional experience for the viewer.

6. Pavilion of Applied arts: Beatriz Milhazes

Looking for vibrant, abstract and swirling artworks? Head over to the Pavilion of Applied Arts and meet the cool work of Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes. Influenced by the tropical climate and vegetation of her home country, as well as drawing inspiration from V&A textiles, at Milhazes’ show you’ll find dynamic and captivating tapestries.

7. South African Pavilion: MADEYOULOOK

In this exhibition, curator Portia Malatjie shows the “resurrection plant” – a plant that comes to life with just a few drops of water – to draw attention to how Black communities have approached land rehabilitation.

8. Nigerian Pavilion: Nigeria Imaginary

The Nigerian pavilion showcases eight artists under the title ‘Nigeria Imaginary,’ which envisions and celebrates Nigerian past, present and future.

Our favorites were: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Yinka Shonibare, and don’t forget to look up for the work of Tunji Adeniyi-Jones.

9. French Pavilion: Julien Creuzet

Arguably one of the best pavilions, the French- Caribbean artist’s multimedia installation explores his own diasporic identity and ties to his ancestral home Martinique through sculptural, textile artworks and poetic interventions.

Often repurposing found objects–particularly trash washed ashore the beach–Creuzet further touches upon the complex colonial histories between Europe and the Caribbean.

10. Saudi Pavilion: Manal AlDowayan

The National pavilion of Saudi Arabia presents Shifting Sands – a Battle Song, an installation of sculptures shaped as dessert roses with sound and text relating to the way Saudi women are written about by the Western media.

ARSENALE

Moving on to the Arsenale, the second main venue of the Venice Biennale. This is located in a complex of former shipyards and armories from the pre-industrial era. 

The complex spans over eleven thousand square meters and – aside from the Italian pavilion – hosts other national pavilions including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

At the Corderie – a former rope yard – in the Arsenale you’ll find the other half of the Central exhibition curated by Adriano Pedrosa. This year more works by dead artists than living ones are on display, the first time this occurs in the history of the Venice Biennale.

Yinka Shonibare at the entrance of the Arsenale.

Do not miss New Zealand’s Mataaho Collective, the Golden Lion winner for best international participation for its work Takapau. This is a large-scale installation inspired by Māori takapau, finely-woven mats made for special events.

Pacita Abad

Dana Arwartani

Bordadoras de Isla Negra

Salman Toor

‘Electric Dress’ by Puppies Puppies

Arvani Art Project

Domenico Gnoli

This section is entirely dedicated to Italian emigrants, whose works are shown on glass easels originally made for the São Paulo Museum of Art by architect Lina Bo Bardi. It is an unusual way to showcase paintings, but creates the opportunity to see the back of the works as well and give a very bright feel. 

This group of columns by Lauren Halsey can’t be missed. Halsey is also known for her commission for the Met Rooftop in 2023.

COLLATERAL EVENTS

As the biggest international art event of the year, the Venice Biennale becomes the destination of many greats in the art world. This incentivizes galleries and foundations to organize additional exhibitions and art events, which are coined ‘Collateral Events.’ We’ve selected our favorites for you below.

Janus | Berggruen Arts & Culture

This  brand-new contemporary art venue in the vast and spectacular Palazzo Diedo is definitely worth a visit. The charitable foundation Berggruen Arts & Culture just opened its permanent space with an exhibition titled ‘Janus,’ after the Roman god of transitions.

The show includes 11 works especially commissioned for the space, artists including Lee Ufan, Urs Fischer, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Zeng Fanzhi | Scuola Grande della Misericordia

  • Until 30 Sep
  • Sestiere Cannaregio, 3599
  • lacma.org

A match made in Venice: Zeng Fanzi & Tadao Ando. Do you remember Zeng Fanzhi and his recreation of Van Gogh’s self-portraits? In Venice, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) organized an exhibition with beautiful abstract new works, titled ‘Zeng Fanzhi: Near and Far / Now and Then’… 

…with a stunning installation designed by star architect Tadao Ando.

Daniel Arsham | Chiesa di Santa Catarina

  • Until 15 Sep ‘24
  • Fondamenta Santa Caterina, 4940A
  • artrabbit.com

The solo exhibition ‘Venice 3024’ proposes an imaginary world 1000 years into the future through Arsham’s large scale suite of sculptures.

Unapologetic WomXn | Palazzo Bembo

Do you remember the young international art curator, advisor, gallerist and advocate Destinee Ross Sutton from our episode on black female artists? In Venice, she curated an exhibition where 34 female artists offer their unique artistic interpretation of female sexuality. We loved the work titled ‘Ivy and Friends’ (2022) by Stella Kapezanou.

Art Fix tip: read our interview with Destinee here

I am not afraid of ghosts | Palazzo Tiepolo Passi

You may have to search for the entrance of this exhibition, but trust us: it’s worth the effort! This exhibition centers on the female body.

The show honours our origins while finding optimism for the future, with artists including Jadé Fadojutimi, Caroline Walker and Sarah Lucas.

Eva Jospin | Fortuny Museum

In our episode ‘Back to Nature’, we introduced you to Parisian artist Eva Jospin. In Venice’s Fortuny, the artist creates voluminous compositions reminiscent of landscapes, trees, and an architectural arcade, with a fairy-tale-like quality. Jospin uses humble materials like cardboard, paper and plant-based elements. We especially love her embroidery works.

Julie Mehretu | Pinault Collection

Pinault Collection presents the Ethiopian-American artist’s largest exhibition in Europe to date!

Her abstract landscapes are put into conversation with the art of her friends and fellow artists, shedding a new light on her oeuvre.

From Ukraine: Dare to Dream | Pinchuk Art Center

Can you imagine tomorrow? Do we have the courage to dream? This exhibition weaves a tapestry of stories and dreams gathered from all over. Go and explore this show that reflects on this crucial moment in history and how to move towards a more peaceful society. Zhanna Kadyrova, Otobong Nkanga and Shilpa Gupta were our favorites.

Jean Cocteau | Peggy Guggenheim 

Jean Cocteau was a jack-of-all-trades – a poet, a novelist, a critic… But he was also a deeply gifted visual artist. In this retrospective, we walk through the subversive artistic career of Cocteau, set inside the old home of Peggy Guggenheim.

Pierre Huyghe | Pinault Collection

Dive into a wondrous world that traverses the boundaries between human and non-human in this French multimedia artist’s exhibition ‘Liminal’. Watch your step, and be careful not to trip in the dark!

Ewa Juszkiewic | Palazzo Cavanis

  • Until 1 Sep ‘24
  • Fondamenta Zattere ai Gesuati, 920 Dorsoduro 
  • alminerech.com

Check out Ewa Juszkiewicz’s infamous works – portraits of women from European art history. 

Transformed by replacing facial features with various objects and materials to explore the themes of femininity and patriarchy.

Art Fix Tip: Cross the bridge and find Palazzo Experimental. Even if you are not staying there, it’s a worthy spot for a coffee break (yes, they have oat milk). Later in the evening, head to the Experimental Cocktail club behind the hidden door in the lobby, where you can expect great music.

Memo Akten | Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione

Turkish new media artist Memo Akten pushes and explores boundaries in this special digital art installation crafted using artificial intelligence and custom coding.

Hosted by the VanHaerents Art Collection.

Willem de Kooning Pirate (Untitled II), 1981 oil on canvas 88 x 77 inches 107.1982

Willem de Kooning | Gallerie dell’Accademia

A knockout exhibition devoted to the American painter and sculptor at the Accademia explores the Abstract Expressionist artist’s ties to Italy and how the country influenced him during his visits in 1959 and 1969.

Breasts | Palazzo Franchetti

Breasts have endlessly captivated artists, and once entering this exhibition through a pink passage with a ceiling of – you guessed it – breast lights!

Divided into five rooms, the exhibition shows work by Cindy Sherman, Marcel Duchamp, Anna Weyant, and Chloe Wise.

James Lee Byars and Seung-taek Lee | Istituto Veneto di Scienze

How can two artists who have never met, make work that is so similar to each other’s? At the beautiful Palazzo Loredan, works by James Lee Byars and Seung-taek Lee are exhibited together, making it difficult to identify which artist is the creator.

Because of the palazzo’s status as a place of research, all of the works in the show must be hung in such a way that the bookshelves are still accessible. Several appear to float, mirroring the two artist’s interest in the wind.

Robert Indiana | Procuratie Vecchie

  • Until 24 Nov ‘24
  • Piazza San Marco, 105
  • ysp.org.uk

Do not miss this exhibition, ‘The Sweet Mystery’! Robert Indiana remains famous for his use of bold numbers and letters in sculptures and paintings, but there’s more to discover.

Robert Indiana’s six-decade long career is right at home in the recently-restored Procuratie Vecchie designed by David Chipperfield. Go and find out for yourself.

Manolo Valdés | San Marco Square

This public art project on the San Marco Square by the Spanish sculptor of thirteen bronze sculptures are inspired by figures in the paintings of Diego Velázquez. The placement of these statues in treasured cultural spaces has been the topic of a heated debate, with local communities arguing against the ‘Biennalization’ of Venice.

Berlinde De Bruyckere | Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore

The sculptures of Belgian artist Berlinde de Bruyckere occupy the impressive 16th century white marble Abbazia di Giorgio Maggiore, and it’s an absolute feat! In this solo exhibition, she turns her eye to the light, with sunlight traveling in throughout the day on her installation of Arcangeli. It appears as if a group of angels without faces have touched down in the sacred spaces.

Alex Katz | Fondazione Giorgio Cini

  • Until 29 Sep ‘24
  • Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Sala Carnelutti
  • ​​cini.it

At 96 years old, Alex Katz is showing new close-up paintings of grass and bodies of water. The third space shows recent figurative paintings of the late mid century designer Claire McCardell’s archive.

Helmut Newton | Le Stanze della Fotografia

The famous German fashion photographer Legacy exhibition takes you on a tour beginning in 1940 and 1950s in Australia, the 1960s in France, the 1970s in the United States, the 1980s between Monte Carlo and Los Angeles and numerous reports around the world of the nineties. 

Elias Sime | TanArte

Across the entrance to the Arsenale you’ll find six custom-made works by the Ethiopian artist. These are fantastic large-scale reliefs and wallworks made from recycled consumer goods, electronic wires and keyboards – made to make you think about the destructive nature of technology.

William Kentridge | Arsenale Institute for Politics of Representation

A long-awaited premiere of the COVID-born nine-episode provocative video series entitled ‘Self-Portrait as a Coffee-Pot’. The space, the same size as his studio, shows this installation with multiple video screens, drawings and text works. A must for every Kentridge fan.

Art Fix tip: Check out the first floor to experience Kentridge’s apartment.

WINE, DINE, AND SLEEP

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Pasticceria Tonolo

What’s a morning in Italy without gulping down a scorching espresso at the bar with your favorite pasticcini?

Caffè Florian

For a glamorous coffee and people-watching.

Ristorante Riviera

  • Fondamenta Zattere Al Ponte Lungo, 1473
  • thefork.it

Dining with a view, directly on the waterfront. Far from the tourist crowd, in the Dorsoduro quarter. This is one of our new favorites!

Bar Alla Toletta

For a quick, snackable lunch along your gondola rides, stop by this local favorite for a tramezzino and the legendary Torta della Nonna.

La Zucca

  • Santa Croce 1762
  • lazucca.it

A refuge from the Venetian norm. A lot of vegetarian dishes. Our favorites: the pumpkin flan and the baked pasta.

Do Forni

For the best Venetian cuisine and art world celebrity-spotting

Venice M’Art

A gorgeous location for soaking up the afternoon sun while you polish off classic Venetian dishes.

Vini da Arturo

This is the traditional trattoria inVenice. There are only nine tables, so make sure to book ahead.

Ombra del Leone

This charming restaurant is a tough opponent in the competition for Venice’s most beautiful terrace – and the food is up to par too! Seafood is the star player here.

Harry’s Dolci

For the best Bellinis and Carpaccio.

Vino Vero Venezia

How about a more casual option for the wine-loving readers? This is the perfect spot to enjoy some quick nibbles (‘cicchetti’) alongside glass after glass.

Hotel Palazzo Veneziano

For the best service. Tried and tested by the Art Fix team.

Hotel Flora

A hidden boutique hotel in the middle of town.

Most venues are closed through Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, so if you’re going to Venice on one of those days, plan your excursions accordingly. For more info pick-up the pink guide at a Biennale venue or download the app: My Art Guide Venice.