Venice Art Biennale

The best of the international art scene for over a century


The International Art Exhibition in Venice plays a prominent role in the filming industry and is a major event that for more than a century brings the best of the international art scene to Venice...

The history of the Venice Biennale began in 1893 when the city council decided to set up a Venice Biennale international art exhibition. The Biennale of Venice invited major Italian and foreign artists, each with a maximum of two works that had never been exhibited in Italy.

Discover with us the history of the International Art Exposition, the unmissable happening that, once every two years, brings to Venice great artists and young talents that with their works turn the event in an unforgettable emotion!

In this section you will find information, photos and anecdotes about all the editions of the Venice Biennale of Art…

The Art Biennale


The first Biennale in Venice opened on 30 April 1895 with more than 200 thousand visitors, a great start which catapulted the fledgling exposure among the big international events. From the 2nd Biennale some novelties were introduced, such as the Critics Award, which stimulated articles and reviews on the Biennal Venice Art increasing its visibility and quality.

During the first editions, German art brought to Venice important works and artists: in the 1899 Biennale Venice Klimt presented the famous Giuditta II. This edition also inaugurated the new formula of the staff.

In the 4th Biennial art exhibition French art finally found the right visibility with an exhibition of French landscape of the '30s – the works of Corot and Millet - and a solo exhibition of Rodin. While from the 5th Biennale Venice, Italy there were decorative arts and the Salon des refuses.

Despite the growing importance of French Impressionism, the Biennale Art Exhibition Venice preferred to expose Sargent (1907) and Bartlett (1909).

The organization of the foreign Pavilions began in 1907, first of all the Belgian followed by Britain, Germany and Hungary. In 1912 Venice, France and Sweden arrived, although the Swedish pavilion was transferred to the Netherlands in 1914.

The 9th Biennial di Venezia – which was anticipated in 1910 in order not to coincide with the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Kingdom of Italy – brought to Venice Klimt, Renoir, Courbet retrospective and Monticelli. In 1914, following the rise of Expressionism, Venice offered a personal exhibition of Ensor.

In the years of the World War I, the Biennale exhibition was suspended.



In the early postwar period, the Art Biennale Venice continued to propose new trends. In 1920 Signac - curator of the French Pavilion - besides his own work, exposed Cézanne, Seurat, Redon, Matisse and Bonnard, the Netherlands offered a retrospective of Van Gogh and Switzerland one on Hodler.

The Biennale Venice Art of 1922 took place between numerous controversies: the retrospective of Modigliani collected a lot of criticism on the life of the artist, while the exhibition of African sculpture was defined in a derogatory sense as being 'primitive'.

In editions of the Biennale exhibition Venice in the twenties and thirties, French art continued to dominate: in 1928 with Bissière, Chagall, Ernst and Zadkine; the Biennale of 1930 showed a comparison of Italian and French artists resident in Paris, and in 1932 an exhibition on Italians in Paris was organized.

In those years the French pavilion at the Biennale Festival Venice hosted a retrospective of Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Manet, Degas and Renoir and presented the contemporary Matisse, Van Dongen and Zadkine; whereas Britain organized personal exhibitions of Nicholson, Epstein and Moore and Germany presented Marc, Nolde, Klee and various exponents of the Expressionism.

In 1930, the Biennale Venice was transformed into an Autonomous Body and began to organize conventions of poetry (1932/1934), a festival of music and theatre, and the first Venice Film Festival.

The Biennale Venice of 1938 introduced the Grand Prices. Editions of 1944 and 1946 were cancelled due to the war.



The review of the avant-garde made the 24th Biennale exhibition an extraordinary event. To remember: the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the retrospective of Pablo Picasso presented by Guttuso.

The presence of all extremist tendencies, from Cubism to Surrealism, lead the Biennale in Venice to the heart of the debate on contemporary art.

Despite the effects of war, in the 24th Biennale of Venice no pavilion remained empty... Ernst, Dali, Kandinsky, Mirò and Mondrian were some of the names at the Biennale art exhibition in 1948, not to mention Monet, Sisley, Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin and Van Gogh who were presented in the Exhibition of impressonists.

The exhibiting countries organised important exhibitions: Maillol, Braque and Chagall for France; Schiele and Wotruba for Austria - which also used the Yugoslav pavilion to exhibit Kokoschka; Britain brought to Venice Turner and Moore; and Belgium Ensor and Permeke .

In the central pavilion an exhibition of Klee and artists repudiated by the German Nazis was presented.



The review of the avant-garde, initiated by the 1948 Biennale in Venice, was continued in the five subsequent editions: except Dadaism, Venice managed to reconstruct a fairly complete picture of the European avant-garde by creating a bridge between the public and contemporary art.

At the Biennale di Venezia 1950 the exhibitions of Fauves, Cubism, Futurism and Blaue Reiter proved very successful, while the Mexican Pavilion - a great revelation of this Biennale - presented Orozco, Riviera, Siqueiros and Tamayo.

In this period the explosion of new trends brought to the American pavilion the action paintings of Pollock while Surrealism conveyed to Venice the works by Courbet, Munch, Klee and Magritte.

From 1958 to 1968 the Biennale Venice contributed significantly to the promotion of contemporary art.



The sixties opened to the name of controversy: the Biennale in Venice was criticized by the number of invited artists and the 'overwhelming power of critics'. Critics, however, led to the creation and the affirmation of the Informal Movement at the International Art Exhibition of 1960.

The awarding of a prize to the American painter Rauschenberg in the 1964 Biennale Venice marked the advent of American Pop Art in Europe. The hype and the controversy that followed the delivery of this Grand Prix almost overshadowed the other exhibitions that year: 'Art in today’s museums ' and the presentation of the bronzes of The Door of Death for St. Peter's Basilica .

After the clamour of Pop Art, the Biennale in Venice of 1966 suggested a return to rationality and rigor with optical art, kinetic and programmed installations of Le Parc and Soto at the Gardens.

With regards to Italian art, it is worth mentioning the retrospectives on Boccioni and Morandi, who died in those years.

The demonstrations of 1968 fully affected the Biennale Venice: many exhibitions remained closed and the participating artists in the demonstrations covered or turned over the works on display.



In the Biennale of Venice of 1970 the Grand Prizes were abolished, the sales office was deleted and thematic reviews on monographic exhibitions and celebrations were preferred.

Also in the Biennale of 1970 'Proposal for an experimental exposure' wanted to present some problematics of art through works by Malevich, Duchamp, Man Ray and Albers.

The Biennial Venice of 1972 was an edition to remember when the spectacle of ten thousand butterflies were released in St Mark's Square in Venice – and for the first time a thematic strand for all exposures was proposed, 'Work and Behaviour'.

In 1973 the Italian Parliament approved the new Statute of the Biennale and began a program to decentralize, interdisciplinary and overcome the timing of seasonal Biennale. They developed new venues and other spaces used for happenings, debates and performances.

The Biennale Venice 1974 was entirely dedicated to Chile: the same Hydrangea Allende, widow of President, reached to inaugurate the Biennale Venice of 1974, considered the largest cultural protest against the dictator Pinochet.

The establishment of the permanent activities of the Biennale in Venice allowed the execution of events, exhibitions and theatre performances outside the International Art Exhibition.

In 1977 the controversial 'Biennale of dissent' presented the exhibition 'The New Soviet Art: an unofficial perspective'; the 38th Biennale in Venice brought works by Kandinsky, Mondrian, de Chirico, Boccioni, Rauschenberg, Braque, Duchamp and Picasso .



The first initiatives of the new decade involved connecting the Biennale with Carnevale di Venezia and the recovery of the Corderie of the Arsenal of Venice by a part of the Architecture Biennale, with the exhibition on Postmodernism 'The New Way'.

In the Eighties the Biennale art exhibition was developed on unit themes: Art as Art (1982), Art in the mirror (1984), Art and science (1986). This setting was only exceeded in 1990 when the Art Biennale began to be broken down into sections.

In 1980, the International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale presented 'Aperto '80', an initiative for young artists, formulated in subsequent editions, where it makes its appearance with the so-called Trans-Chia, Clemente, De Maria and Paladino.

'Art and Science', the Biennale of Venice in 1986, for the first time was divided into two sections: 'Past and present' and 'In the age of the exact sciences'; the exhibition dedicated to Noguchi (U.S.A) and the anti-racism initiative Eulisse, which opened as 'Pavilion of South Africa'which, collected a lot of success.

The U.S. pavilion remained among the protagonists of the next Biennale, hosting the first major personnel Johns in Europe.



The International Art Exhibition in Venice 'Future size' - 1990 - sees the return in Venice of the Ambassador of Pop Art Rauschenberg presenting one of his works in the Soviet pavilion.

Attention and controversy were built around 'Open' at the Corderie of the Arsenal: as well as ecclesiastical protests - for a work on the subject of AIDS - and environmental - against a work that exposed live ants - the exhibition was closed for health checks because of the sectioning of a carcass of cow by the Englishman Hirst.

This edition was again a great success for the U.S. pavilion presenting electronic writing and advertising quotations of Holzer.

The 45th Biennale art Venice, 'Cardinal points of the art' offered a great international and interdisciplinary overview, without forgetting the important tributes to Bacon, Cage and Greenaway. The German Pavilion and Russian pavilion were much appreciated.

The centennial edition of the Biennale Venice - 1995 - a director who was not Italian was appointed for the first time, French Jean Clair, who exhibited at the Palazzo Grassi 'Identity and Otherness': focused on the face and body, the exhibition presented works from the most important museums in the world.

January 1998 saw the approval of the law decree that turned the Venice Biennale into the 'Culture Company of La Biennale di Venezia', a private legal entity with various sectors of activity (architecture, visual arts, cinema, theater, music, and dance) and in connection with the ASAC.

The editions of 1999 (dAPERTutto) and 2001 (Plateau of Humankind), the Biennale of Art in Venice promoted a great project for the recovery and use of the important buildings of the Arsenale.

After 'Aperto 80', ‘dAPERTutto’ definitely exceeds the separation between young and established artists.



The 49th Biennale of Art in Venice, 'Plateau of Humankind', drew more than 243,000 visitors to Venice. In addition to presenting a major work of Beuys 'The end of the twentieth century', this exhibition presented Cy Twombly, Serra, Toroni and several other contemporary artists who dedicated themselves to the human figure.

The 51st Biennale of Contemporary Art had two international exhibitions prepared, for the first time, by two women: at the Gardens 'The Experience of Art' by María de Corral, at the Arsenale 'Always a Little farther’ by Rosa Martínez. These two exhibitions added 70 national participants and 31 collateral events that attracted a total crowd record of 915,000 people.

In 2007, the 52nd Biennale art exhibition recorded an even bigger audience: with over 25,000 m2 of exhibitions,and 76 national pavilions, during the opening period the Biennale art exhibition was the most visited art exhibitions of Italy.

Various exhibitions were also organized linked to Venice and 34 collateral events which recorded the biggest audience ever seen among previous editions.

The 53rd International Art Exhibition in Venice 'Fare Mondi/Making Worlds', connected in one exhibition the venues of the Biennale, from the Giardini to the Arsenale of Venice, surpassing the record of visitors of the 2007 Biennale.

The redevelopment of the Italian Pavilion marked a turning point in the participation of Italian artists at the Biennale of Art in Venice.


Biennale - Venice Exhibition venues: Giardini and Arsenale

Biennale of Art - How to reach the exhibition halls:
from Piazzale Roma / Train Station: for Arsenal: ACTV 1-4.1; for Gardens: ACTV 1-2-4.1-5.1-(6 from Piazzale Roma)

Biennale Art Exhibition – Tickets: Arsenale, Giardini

Biennial of Art – visitors information: ticket valid for only one entry in each venue (Giardini-Arsenale are 15 minutes’ walk apart)

Services for the public (Giardini-Arsenale): infopoint, free wardrobe

Services in the exhibition (Giardini-Arsenale): bar, restaurant, bookshop


Information and bookings
Tel. 041 5218 828 - Fax 041 5218 732

By Insidecom Editorial Staff