Why You Should Visit The Venice Biennale & Top Tips for When You Do

18 Sep 2022 | 0 Comments

I was lucky enough to visit the esteemed Olympic-scale contemporary art event the Venice Biennale this year. And I think you should go too.

The Venice Biennale happens, by definition, once every two years. It involves countries worldwide coming together to present the best of contemporary art and is loosely split into three parts. 

First, there is the central exhibition, which is organised by the artistic director and centres around a theme. This is a very large scale, more traditional style of exhibition as it has a singular curator and combines art and artists around a singular curatorial question. This takes place in the Central Pavilion in the public gardens known as the Giardini, as well as at the entrance to the second venue, the dockyards known as the Arsenale. 

On top of this there are national pavilions, which are organised by the countries they represent, and showcase one or more artists (usually from or living in that country). Each one of these is different, and whilst they may have considered the overarching theme when deciding on the artist chosen, the national pavilions each have their own unique identity. 

Finally, if you have any more energy, there are independently organised exhibitions scattered around the city, known as Collateral Events. These can be fun to stumble across, or hunt down like treasure on a pirate map. 

So, you know what is involved, but why should you go?

  1. Because Venice is beautiful…

Okay so this might not be about the Biennale itself, but if you are going to go to a large-scale art event, why wouldn’t you choose the one in the most picturesque location?

  1. Because it is surprisingly cheap…

Having seen celebrities and art world titans attending year after year, I had assumed that the Venice Biennale was exclusively for the rich and famous. I was wrong. Tickets are just over 25 euros, allowing for 1 admission to each venue.

  1. Because of the sheer scale…

The scale and funding involved in this event means not only is there something for everyone, but the ambition of the art projects is like nothing you have seen before.

  1. Because it is a global event…

This year 213 artists were a part of the central exhibition alone, hailing from 58 countries, whilst 80 nations took part by hosting their own pavilion. This is growing every year, and it is a refreshing change of pace that even tiny or remote countries have the opportunity to show off their artistic prowess.

  1. Because who knows how long it will be there…

This is a sad fact, but due to the climate crisis and Venice’s unique position surrounded by water – it may not be around in the near future. 

  1. Because it has the best contemporary art…

Okay, I should have started with this one, but the truth is you should go simply because the art is so good. It is a place to get inspired and learn about the topics that are infiltrating the art world at that moment.

Top Tips if you decide to go:

  • Go in the later months 

Avoid the heat and the crowds by visiting in September – November, if possible, you won’t regret it.

  • Get a ticket in advance

Early bird discounts are available, so if you know you are planning to go, get a ticket ahead of time and you could halve the cost

  • Spend at least one full day at each venue

There is so much to see that any less than one day dedicated to the Giardini, and one day at the Arsenale, and you will not get the most out of the event. It is no fun rushing around and taking nothing in, so give yourself enough time at each venue to avoid any stress.

  • Research the pavilions you want to see 

Press and VIPs often attend the Biennale before it is open to the public, so whenever you go, you should be able to find some recommendations of critics' favourite pavilions that year. Since there is so much to see, it can be good to do your research beforehand and have a ‘wish-list’, so you can make sure you do not walk away with regrets.

  • Stay somewhere away from the action

Venice is a tourist hot-spot, and as such not an inexpensive place to stay. Save yourself the money and head to the more remote areas of the Island, such as Castello, or go so far as to stay on one of the nearby islands like Giudecca. You can still get everywhere you want to on a handy waterbus.

  • Take bug spray

Ok not at all art related, and I am not sure if this was just me, but out of personal experience, I would say some bug spray wouldn’t go amiss, haha!

So, there you have it, whether you want a last-minute holiday this year, or to start planning for two years’ time, the Venice Biennale should be on every art lover's bucket list!

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