What you need to know about the Art Biennale in Venice

Our essential mini guide to understanding the Art Biennale in Venice

The Biennale of Venice is a cultural institution that has been active since 1895. It organizes the most important contemporary art exhibition in Italy and one of the most acclaimed worldwide. There are high expectations for the 2022 edition of the International Art Exhibition, as it is called by the organization. It will open on Saturday, 23 April and remain open until 27 November. The first woman to hold the role of director, Cecilia Alemani, has chosen the title: The Milk of Dreams.  Even the coinciding exhibitions are buzzworthy (especially Anish Kapoor's personal exhibition at the Gallerie dell'Accademia).  There is the hope that Venice will regain its sparkle after months of stagnation, semi-deserted hotels and declining tourist numbers.  We have all heard of the Biennale, it seems someone always ends up throwing it into conversation, so here we answer some basic questions.

When is the best time to go to the Art Biennale?

The 59th International Art Exhibition will open its doors to the public on Saturday, April 23 with the official awards ceremony and the inauguration. The exhibition, which will remain open until Sunday, November 27, 2022, can be visited both independently and with the support of a guide: tickets are on sale exclusively online and are valid for one entrance to the Giardini and one to the Arsenale (even on different days).  It is best to see the pavilions when they are still fresh, but perhaps after the initial wave of visitors - aim for the end of May through June.

What are the exhibition venues of the Venice Biennale?

There are two main event venues: the Giardini della Biennale and the Arsenale. The Giardini della Biennale is located on the eastern edge of the city. Originally a working-class neighborhood, Napoleon had a park built here by knocking down houses, churches and three convents during the French occupation. The Gardens have hosted the Biennale since its first edition in 1895. The exhibition area consists of the national pavilions and the former Italian pavilion, now the Central Pavilion, where the artworks in competition are displayed The Arsenal was once at the center of production during Venice’s heyday of maritime trade. The complex housed the shipyards, workshops and warehouses where the Venetian fleets were built. Granted in 1999 to the Biennale by the Navy, its immense surface, 50,000 square meters, is regularly used to host the collective exhibition and some national pavilions (including the Italian pavilion).There are three prizes awarded: the Golden Lion for best national participation, the Golden Lion for best participant in the international exhibition, and the Silver Lion for a "promising young participant" in the show.

Who will participate in the Art Biennale 2022?

A total of 213 artists from 58 different countries will exhibit their work over the course of the 59th edition of the Art Biennale in Venice. The national pavilions are under the control of the country being represented, including the selection of the artists and the costs. For the first time the Biennale will also be attended by the Republic of Cameroon, Namibia, Nepal, the Sultanate of Oman and Uganda, while the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Republic of Kyrgyzstan and the Republic of Uzbekistan will participate with their own pavilions for the first time.

What is the theme chosen by the curator of the Art Biennale 2022?

The first woman appointed curator of the Venice Art Biennale, Cecilia Alemani, declared her intention to "give artists a voice to create unique projects that reflect their visions and our society." This is how “Il latte dei sogni” (The Milk of Dreams) was born, a curatorial project that takes its title from a book of fairy tales by Leonora Carrington about a magical world in which life is constantly reinvented through the prism of the imagination, and in which one is allowed to change, transform, and become something other than themselves.  Rooted in the idea of conversations and questions that arise in times of uncertainty, the theme touches on three main points: the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses, the relationship between individuals and technology, the links between bodies and the earth. The exhibition was conceived and realized during a period of instability and uncertainty. Its genesis coincided with the beginning and continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic that forced the Venice Biennale to postpone this edition by a year, something that only previously occurred during World War I and World War II. “The fact that the event is opening is in itself extraordinary.  Not so much as a symbol for newfound normality, but rather the sign of a collective effort that has something miraculous about it," said the curator.

What will you find at the Italian Pavilion?

“Storia della Notte e Destino delle Comete” (History of the Night and Fate of the Comets) is the title of the project presented in the Italian Pavilion.  It has been entrusted for the first time to a single artist, Gian Maria Tosatti. The installation will be a narrative experience composed of two phases designed to make the most of the space. Tosatti aims to make a statement on contemporaneity, in order to provide an analysis of the present and the past that, although gloomy, does not manage to tear away hope for the future. Using varied artistic languages, from theater to visual art, the piece will take the visitor on a journey that begins with “Storia della Notte” (History of the Night), the symbolic story of the rise and fall of the Italian industrial dream, and end with the “Destino delle Comete” (Fate of the Comets), which reminds us that nature, when outraged, never forgives man. For the duration of the exhibition the Italian Pavilion will be structured as a real forum, with meetings (online and offline) dedicated to the themes touched on by Tosatti's work (from the ecological and environmental to the cultural).

Will Ukraine participate in the Art Biennale 2022?

"The Venice Biennale, a place for encounters between people through arts and culture, is close to all those who are suffering as a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine. [The organization] invokes peace and firmly repudiates all forms of war and violence", stated the Venice Biennale to confirm its intention to collaborate unreservedly, “to make Ukraine's participation in the 59th International Art Exhibition with the artist and his entire team possible. And while we are working to make this actually happen, what is certain is that we will not see any Russian institutional delegate or personality at official events”.  The Biennale di Venezia has in fact declared to refuse, as long as a situation of conflict remains, "any form of collaboration with those who have implemented or support an act of aggression of unprecedented gravity".

How much does the ticket for the Art Biennale 2022 cost?

The entrance ticket costs 25 euro and allows one entrance to the Giardini della Biennale and one entrance to the Arsenale. Entries do not have to be used in consecutive days (for example, first entry in June and the following one in September).  To purchase tickets click here.  There is no need to print your ticket, simply display it on your smartphone at the entrance gates.

Will I understand anything once I get there?

The Venice Art Biennale is an occasion to get in touch with present day ideas, styles, vision, themes, and techniques, but also witness the simple tricks of artists and curators.  There are endless leaflets and brochures distributed in the pavilions to guide your visit.  For information about the history of the event itself, the official website has plenty to offer. There are also official websites for events and artists.  Keep your eyes peeled for staff identifiable by a t-shirt with Ask Me written on it, and ask for a quick (and free) introduction to the artworks.  If you are craving an international atmosphere you will be satiated at the Art Biennale, just a four hour train ride from Rome. Editorial Credit: bepsy / Shutterstock.com