Venice Biennale

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The Biennale di Venezia (officially Italian L'Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte, la Biennale di Venezia ) is an international art exhibition in Venice . It has been held every two years since 1895, making it the oldest biennial .

The main venue is the Giardini in the Castello district , where 28 countries present themselves in their national pavilions. Several dozen other countries that have not built their own pavilion on this site will be exhibiting in rented rooms throughout the city during the Biennale. Independent of the national representations, there is a themed exhibition put together by curators in the Arsenale .

The Venice Biennale also includes a music festival (since 1930), the film festival (since 1932), a theater festival (since 1934) and a contemporary dance festival (since 1999). These events take place annually. In addition, there has been the Architecture Biennale since 1980 , which has been held regularly in the even years since 2002, alternating with the Art Biennale.


Until the First World War

The history of the Venice Biennale dates back to 1893, when the Venice City Council decided to organize an exhibition of Italian art (Esposizione biennale artistica nazionale) every two years. The first general secretary was Antonio Fradeletto .

In the winter of 1894–1895, the Palazzo dell'Esposizione was built for the exhibition, which was named I Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia (1st International Art Exhibition of the City of Venice) on April 30, 1895 in the presence of the Italian royal couple Umberto I. and Margherita di Savoia was opened. With 224,000 visitors, it was a great success with the public. For the exhibition, which is growing from year to year, the concept of the world exhibition was taken as a model. The exhibition established itself very quickly and was held every two years.

National committees were appointed to select the works, one each for Belgium, Denmark, Germany, England, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Sweden, Norway and Spain. The German committee was formed by Anton von Werner , Gustav Schönleber , Fritz von Uhde and the then young Max Liebermann . In addition to his own works, those of colleagues were also exhibited, including Hans Bartels, Franz von Lenbach , Adolph Menzel and Franz von Stuck , by 20 artists from Germany. The exhibition consisted of 516 works by 285 artists.

Entrance to the Giardini, the park where the exhibition pavilions of many countries are located

The first national pavilion at a biennale was designed in 1907 in the Giardini Pubblici by the Belgian architect and designer Léon Sneyers for his home country. The first internationally important artists were on display in 1910: one room was dedicated to Gustav Klimt , Renoir was exhibited and a retrospective was dedicated to Courbet . In 1905, Antonio Fradeletto , the first general secretary of the Biennale, had a work by Pablo Picasso removed from the Spanish Salon (presumably the large painting Les Saltimbanques ), fearing that its novelty might shock the public. It was not until 1948 that works by the Spanish artist could be seen for the first time.

By the last biennial before the First World War , seven national pavilions had already been built. The Belgian pavilion built in 1907 was followed by Hungary , Germany (1909) and Great Britain (1909), France (1912) and Russia (1914).

Until the Second World War

For the first time, avant-garde artists ( Alexander Archipenko ) were invited to the first post-war biennale in 1920 by the new general secretary Vittorio Pica . In 1922, the works of Amedeo Modigliani and an exhibition of sculptures by African artists were shown in a retrospective . This selection has been heavily criticized in some cases. In order to curb Pica's “audacity”, an administrative committee, which was dissolved again in 1930, was set up to “accompany” the work.

In 1928, the core of the archival collections of the Biennale began with the establishment of the Historical Institute of Contemporary Art (Istituto Storico d'Arte Contemporanea). The institute was later renamed the Historical Archive of Contemporary Art (ASAC, Archivo Storico d'Arte Contemporanea). In 1930, the Biennale was transferred to an autonomous administrative unit by royal decree. Control passed from the city of Venice to the fascist state. With the now more extensive financial resources, the Biennale was expanded to include the areas of music, cinema and theater to become the multidisciplinary event that it is to this day. The International Festival of Contemporary Music , first held in 1930, was part of the Biennale until it took place annually from 1937. The first film festival followed in 1932 (Esposizione internationale d'arte cinematografica), which was held on the terraces of the Hotel Excelsior . A vote has already taken place, but no prizes have been awarded yet. The festival has been held annually since 1935. Pre-war films included Clarence Brown's Anna Karenina , Luis Trenker's Der Kaiser von California , Carnet du bal by Julien Duvivier, and Olympia by Leni Riefenstahl . The international theater festival was held for the first time in 1934. They too have been an annual event since 1963.

post war period

After a six-year break, the first biennial after the Second World War took place in 1948 . The European avant-garde and worldwide trends in contemporary art received special attention. Abstract Expressionism was introduced in the 1950s, and Pop Art in the 1960s . The Italian architect Carlo Scarpa was responsible for the remarkable redesign of the exhibition grounds until 1972. The protests of the 1968 movement led the Biennale into a crisis. The big prizes were abolished and the emphasis was less on monographic treatment of individual artists than on thematic exhibitions. In 1974, the entire exhibition was a protest against the military coup and the subsequent dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet the country Chile dedicated. In the early 1980s, the Biennale was expanded to include the Architecture Biennale and the Dance Festival.


Since 1999 the arsenal (shipyard) with its halls from the 16th century has also been used as an exhibition area, which was previously a restricted military area. As the number of participating nations also increased, their exhibition venues are spread across the city via churches, palazzi, scuole and abandoned factories. Golden and silver lions for notable works or life's achievements have only been awarded at the Venice Art Biennale since 1986, adopted by the Cinema Biennale, where the Golden Lion has existed since 1949.

At the 50th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2003 , the artist Santiago Sierra had the main entrance of the Spanish pavilion walled up. The empty building could only be entered through the guarded rear entrance on presentation of a Spanish passport. This should expose the globalized world and the way we deal with migration. The German pavilion showed works by Candida Höfer and Martin Kippenberger , and Bruno Gironcoli was exhibited in the Austrian pavilion .

In January 2004 the Biennale was converted into a foundation in order to better exploit the potential of the exhibition as a center of contemporary art through more effective management. Economically, the American cultural sector is a role model, in which 30 percent of the budget comes from private sponsors, 30 percent from own income, 30 percent from public grants and 10 percent from income from the increase in assets.

At the 51st Biennale in 2005, the German pavilion showed works by the artists Thomas Scheibitz and Tino Sehgal . The Austrian pavilion was transformed into a mountain accessible from the inside by Hans Schabus .

The 52nd Biennale took place from June 10th to November 21st, 2007. The curator of the event, in which around 100 artists participated in 77 country presentations, was the American Robert Storr . The German pavilion was designed by Isa Genzken . Austria was represented by the painter Herbert Brandl , and Christine Streuli and Yves Netzhammer presented their work for Switzerland . The Austrian artist Andreas Fogarasi received the Golden Lion for the best country contribution for his exhibition in the Hungarian pavilion. Malick Sidibé was awarded the Golden Lion for his life's work.

The curator of the 53rd Biennale in 2009 was Daniel Birnbaum , the Swedish art historian and then head of the State University of Fine Arts (Städelschule) in Frankfurt am Main . The 53rd edition took place from June 7th to November 22nd, 2009 and 77 countries with their own pavilions, including Israel and Iran together for the first time. The motto of the show with 90 artists was “Making Worlds”.

The Swiss art historian and curator Bice Curiger was director of the 54th Biennale, which took place from June 4th to November 27th, 2011.

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale took place from June 1st to November 24th, 2013. For the first time the Holy See took part ( In Principio ). The curator was Massimiliano Gioni , the youngest ever in the history of the exhibition. The title was "Il Palazzo Enciclopedico" (The Encyclopedic Palace).

The 56th Biennale took place from May 9th to November 22nd, 2015. The artistic director was Okwui Enwezor under the motto “All the World's Futures”.

The artistic director of the 57th Biennale 2017 was the French Christine Macel with the title “Viva Arte Viva” (for example: Long live art, she live), in which 120 artists from 51 countries show their works and more than 80 national pavilions take part. Franz Erhard Walther was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist.

At the 58th Biennale 2019, which took place from May 11th to November 24th, Ralph Rugoff was the curator of the main exhibition. (Under the motto "May You Live in Interesting Times" live in interesting times May you ) work has been shown by 83 artists. The American filmmaker Arthur Jafa won the Golden Lion for best artist for his video "The White Album". The American concept artist Jimmie Durham received the Golden Lion for his life's work. The main prize for the best national contribution was awarded to the Lithuanian artists Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte and Lina Lapelyte.

The 59th Biennale was postponed by one year due to the corona pandemic and will not take place until 2022. The director is the Italian art historian Cecilia Alemani, who lives in New York .

German pavilion

The German pavilion in the Giardini, 1909 after renovation in 1938


Germany participated in the Biennale from the start; in the first year works by Max Liebermann , Gustav Schönleber and Fritz von Uhde were shown, at that time still in the general exhibition building, as there was no pavilion of its own. The German pavilion was built in 1909 as a Bavarian pavilion based on antique designs by the Venetian architect Daniele Donghi . In 1912 the name was changed to Padiglione della Germania and manifested the claim as an official cultural contribution of the entire German Empire to the Biennale. In 1938 the pavilion was redesigned by the National Socialists . The German architect Ernst Haiger replaced the Ionic columns with four mighty rectangular pillars on which a gableless architrave sits. This gave the pavilion a far more monumental impression and created another exhibition building for the self-portrayal of the Third Reich .

After the war, the Federal Republic of Germany took over the property in 1950. A plan submitted by Arnold Bode for the external redesign of the building was not implemented due to financial constraints, only the sovereign eagle and swastikas had been removed. Plans to demolish the building were discarded. In 1964 the interior was renovated. The central room was "changed to the detriment" by removing the partition wall from the apse and a translucent light ceiling below the high windows. Demolition plans were only discussed again after reunification, but the decision was made in favor of a renovation, which was carried out in 1995. The building is now under Italian monument protection.

In the period after the Second World War , more retrospective exhibitions on German art in the first half of the 20th century were shown at the Biennale, which the National Socialists had described as "degenerate". It was not until 1964 that the emphasis was placed on contemporary art and a few or individual artists who created their own works for the exhibition. Dealing with the history of the site was often the subject of the exhibited works, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.

From 1982 to 1990 the GDR participated with its own contributions in the former pavilion of the decorative arts .

The sponsor of the German pavilion is the Federal Republic of Germany, which is also the owner of the property. The Federal Foreign Office is responsible for awarding the German contribution . It appoints a curator (officially commissioner ) who is responsible for the selection of artists and the organization. Nicolaus Schafhausen was the curator of the German Pavilion for the 52nd Biennale in 2007 and the 53rd Biennale in 2009 . The curator of the German pavilion at the 54th and 55th Biennale in 2011 and 2013 was the director of the Museum for Modern Art (MMK) in Frankfurt am Main, Susanne Gaensheimer . In 2015 Florian Ebner , art historian , was head of the photographic collection at the Folkwang Museum in Essen until 2017 and head of the photography department at the Center Pompidou in Paris , curator of the German pavilion at the 56th Biennale from July 1, 2017 .

Exhibiting artists (since 1934)

Exhibiting artists (since 1948)

Venice Biennale 2007

Austrian pavilion


Austria has been represented at the Biennale since 1895, initially through a hall in the central pavilion. The Austrian pavilion was designed in 1933/1934 as a sober functional building, as a white cube , by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956) with the assistance of Robert Kramreiter (1905-1965) and built in 1934.

Exhibiting artists (since 1976)

Swiss pavilion


Switzerland has been taking part in the Biennale since 1920. The Swiss Pavilion was built in 1951 in the Giardini by the architect Bruno Giacometti and opened for the 1952 Biennale. Since 1932, Switzerland has also used a pavilion built by Brenno Del Giudice on the island of Sant'Elena . In addition, from 1988 to 2009 Switzerland used the San Stae church as an exhibition space. Since 2012, Pro Helvetia has been responsible for the contributions, which are selected by a jury.

Exhibiting artists (since 1920)

Architecture Biennale

9th Venice International Architecture Biennale (2004)

The 9th International Architecture Exhibition “Metamorph” (2004) was directed by Kurt W. Forster and the two Assistant Directors Nanni Baltzer and Matteo Cainer . Divided into different thematic chapters, the Biennale showed current trends and historical references. For the first time, a comprehensive photo section was part of the Architecture Biennale: “Morphing Lights, Floating Shadows”, curator: Nanni Baltzer . The three parts of the photo section on the subjects of landscape, city and atmosphere were integrated into the exhibition course and thus formed an integral part of the architecture show. Also for the first time, a third volume with essays by international experts was added to the two-volume catalog (Metamorph, three-volume, Italian and English, eds. Nanni Baltzer and Kurt W. Forster).

The main Swiss contribution was Globus Cassus , an architectural utopia by Christian Waldvogel , which envisages the transformation of the earth into a much larger, hollow and, on its inside, inhabited sphere of a disc-like shape. According to Waldvogel, the "turned inside out earth" is an " antipodal " model that is intended to serve as a "playground to develop new, fresh and unbound ideas for an ideal world". (“ It is meant to be a playground to develop new, fresh and unrestricted ideas for an ideal world. ”) As an art project, it belongs to the field of net and process art .

10th Venice International Architecture Biennale (2006)

The exhibition in the German Pavilion entitled “CONVERTIBLE CITY - Forms of Compression and Delimitation” from September 10 to November 19, 2006 presented around 30 projects that, in their self-image, meet the requirements of a changing society and cultural landscape through reuse, change and re-use satisfy. The German contribution examined stimulating redesigns in existing urban space situations that enrich the dynamism and creativity of urban life. Exemplary projects illustrated the exciting compression and transformation of architecture and urban fabric, as well as the sustainable use of the existing potential of the open-topped outskirts for new living and working environments. With the focus of the exhibition on transformation and conversion in the urban environment, a change in perception that is taking place within architecture was also shown. An edition of the architecture magazine archplus was published as a catalog for the exhibition . With a guest editorial team, the general commissioners consciously applied the principle of converting existing structures to the publication.

11th Venice International Architecture Biennale (2008)

The 11th Architecture Biennale opened on September 14, 2008 under the motto “Out there - Architecture beyond building”. The curator of the exhibition, the American Aaron Betsky , asked the exhibitors to reflect on their roots. According to Betsky, the building is the most comprehensive representative of architecture, but also its “tomb”, since the architects can often no longer maintain their creativity in the network of interests of investors, construction engineers and quality managers. The architect should be allowed to show again that he is above all an artist. In the 300-meter-long halls of the Corderie dell'Arsenale, well-known offices such as Coop Himmelb (l) au , Zaha Hadid , Frank Gehry , UNStudio or Herzog & de Meuron presented playful installations, projections and performances rather than concrete, vivid construction projects.

In 56 national contributions, spread over 30 pavilions, the environmental and future responsibility of architecture was emphasized. In the German pavilion, which was designed by the Berlin architects Friedrich von Borries and Matthias Böttger , the focus was on ecology and 20 “projects for a better future”. Austria showed an extensive city installation by PAUHOF, the "Archetherid", and works by Josef Lackner as well as a series of interviews with various architects on the subject of residential construction. Switzerland presented four case studies on architectural research in the “Explorations” pavilion curated by Basel architect Reto Geiser.

12th Venice International Architecture Biennale (2010)

The 12th Architecture Biennale opened on August 29, 2010 under the motto “People Meet in Architecture”. The Japanese architect and Pritzker Prize winner Kazuyo Sejima was the first woman in the history of the Biennale to be responsible for the exhibition. According to the curator, the show aims to “find other ways of life”. The basic idea is "to help people and society to communicate with the architecture and with each other." More important than a uniform concept is the variety of perspectives. 43 offices from all over the world show their work in the halls of the Corderie. Two halls used by Rem Koolhaas emerged as a high point early on , in which he thematized the way we deal with the legacy of architecture today, not least of all from the 1950s to 1980s.

In the national pavilions, Austria presents works by leading architects such as Hans Hollein , Carl Pruscha and Raimund Abraham abroad, as well as examples of international architecture in Austria. In the Swiss pavilion, in addition to models by the structural engineer Jürg Conzett, Swiss infrastructure buildings, especially bridges, can be seen in pictures by photographer Martin Linsi . The exhibition in the German House, in which more than 180 architects and architecture students take part, is dedicated to the topic of “longing”. The Golden Lion for the best country contribution went to Bahrain .

13th Venice International Architecture Biennale (2012)

The 13th Architecture Biennale opened on August 29, 2012 under the motto “Common Ground”. Thanks to this year's curator of the exhibition, David Chipperfield , “architecture in Venice is finally getting back to basics.” According to Chipperfield, the focus is on “dealing with common issues that go beyond one's own position”. Urban Think Tank from Caracas received the Golden Lion for its office for researching the ruins of the Torre David , a 45-storey high-rise building that has meanwhile moved around 3,000 people. The jury found the best national contribution in the work from Japan, which deals with the reconstruction after the 2011 tsunami . The Portuguese Alvaro Siza Vieira was honored for his life's work .

14th Venice International Architecture Biennale (2014)

The 14th International Architecture Biennale opened on June 7, 2014 and closed on November 23, 2014. In January 2013, the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas was appointed director of the 14th Architecture Biennale.

Under the motto "Absorbing Modernity: 1914–2014", the German contribution was designed by the Zurich architects Alex Lehnerer and Savvas Ciriacidis . They built the Bonn Kanzlerbungalow of September reputation as a key contribution 1: 1 in the German Pavilion. The South Korean pavilion received the Golden Lion for the best country pavilion.

15th Venice International Architecture Biennale (2016)

In 2016, the 15th edition took place under the title Reporting from the Front from May 28th to November 27th. The curator was the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena . 88 participants from 37 countries were represented. Of the 61 country pavilions, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Seychelles and Yemen took part for the first time. 2900 journalists were accredited.

The German contribution Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country was curated by Oliver Elser from the German Architecture Museum. The exhibitor was the Berlin architectural firm Something Fantastic , which made four large openings in the pavilion, which was converted by the National Socialists in 1938. It was based on the book Arrival Cities by the Canadian author Doug Saunders .

The Austrian contribution Places for People , curated by Commissioner Elke Delugan-Meissl, took place parallel to Venice at three venues in Vienna.

The Swiss contribution Incidental Space was curated by Sandra Oehy. The exhibitor was Christian Kerez .

16th Venice International Architecture Biennale (2018)

The 16th Biennale took place from May 26th to November 25th 2018 and was entitled Freespace . The Swiss contribution Svizzera 240: House Tour by Alessandro Bosshard, Li Tavor, Matthew van der Ploeg and Ani Vihervaara and the British-American architect and architectural historian Kenneth Frampton received the Golden Lion for his life's work.

The German contribution was under the motto Unbuilding Walls and dealt with the structural consequences of the division of Germany in the former border area. Examples were the former border checkpoint Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, the European cycle path along the Iron Curtain or the village of Jahrsau near Salzwedel.

For 2018, three teams were invited to design the Austrian contribution: Henke Schreieck Architects (Vienna), LAAC (Innsbruck) and Sagmeister & Walsh (New York), curated by Commissioner Verena Konrad, art historian and head of the Vorarlberg Architecture Institute.

17th International Architecture Biennale (2021)

The 17th International Architecture Exhibition should have taken place regularly in 2020, but has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and will now be shown from May 22 to November 21, 2021. Under the motto How will we live together? ( How will we live together? ) 63 countries are participating with their pavilions, 117 architects and teams of architects from 46 countries are registered for the central exhibition. The curator is the Lebanese-American architect and university professor Hashim Sarkis . The German pavilion is curated under the title 2038 - The New Serenity (2038 - Die Neue Gelassenheit) by a team led by Olaf Grawert and Arno Brandlhuber . All films and projections of this contribution are also accessible online in a "pavilion cloud". The Swiss pavilion is curated under the motto Oræ - Experiences on the Border (Oræ is the plural of the Latin word for border) by a multidisciplinary team of architects and artists: Mounir Ayoub and Vanessa Lacaille from the Geneva Laboratoire d'architecture , the Geneva sculptor Pierre Szczepski and the film director and cameraman Fabrice Aragno. Your contribution explores the social and cultural structures on the border between Switzerland and its neighboring countries and the everyday experiences of border residents that have changed as a result of the pandemic. The Austrian contribution curated by Peter Mörtenböck and Helge Mooshammer under the motto We like. Platform Austria on the phenomenon of platform urbanism discusses which role digital platforms will play in the future in the design of living spaces. The Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi received a Golden Lion for life's work posthumously in March and the Spanish Pritzker Prize winner Rafael Moneo in April .


  • Nanni Baltzer, Kurt W. Forster (Ed.): Metamorph. Catalog 9th International Architecture Exhibition. Volume 1: Trajectories. Volume 2: Vectors. Volume 3: Focus. Venice 2004 (English and Italian edition).
  • Christoph Becker, Annette Lagler: Venice Biennale. The German contribution 1895–1995. Ostfildern 1995, ISBN 978-3-89322-740-2 .
  • Deutscher Werkbund Berlin (Ed.): This is modern! - German Werkbund exhibition Venice 2014. Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-86859-283-2 .
  • Robert Fleck : The Venice Biennale - A History of the 20th Century. Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-86572-655-1 .
  • Armand Grüntuch , Almut Ernst, Convertible City - Forms of compression and delimitation. Exhibition catalog of the German contribution to the 10th Venice Architecture Biennale 2006 in the form of a guest editor for the archplus magazine . Berlin / Aachen 2006, ISBN 978-3-931435-09-7 .
  • Jan Andreas May: La Biennale di Venezia - Continuity and Change in Venetian Exhibition Policy 1895–1948. Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-05-004527-6 ( Study series of the German Study Center in Venice. Volume 2).
  • Jörg Scheller , Beat Wyss : The Venetian Bazaar. In: ILLUMInations, 54th International Art Exhibition La Biennale Di Venezia. International Venice Biennale Art Exhibition. Venice 2011, ISBN 978-88-317-0820-3 .
  • Ursula Zeller : The German Contributions to the Venice Biennale 1895–2007. Cologne 2007, ISBN 978-3-8321-9016-3 (English translation, 2009).

Web links

Commons : Biennale di Venezia  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  22. Johanna Adorján : There are really more important things than work. , In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung , February 28, 2016, page 45 (interview).
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  25. Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country. Retrieved March 2, 2017 .
  26. 15th Architecture Biennale 2016 in Venice Austria Pavilion .
  27. a b Venice is the setting for the Architecture Biennale 2018. In: Deutsche Welle , May 25, 2018, accessed May 25, 2018.
  28. Contribution from the Tagesschau of Swiss radio and television from May 26, 2018
  29. ^ Venice lion for architect Kenneth Frampton. In: Deutschlandfunk Kultur , April 18, 2018.
  30. "Freespace" - Austria at the 2018 Biennale . In: ORF , November 6, 2017, accessed on May 10, 2018.
  31. Architecture Biennale 2018: Austria Commissioner Verena Konrad presents her ideas ( Memento from May 9, 2018 in the Internet Archive ). Article dated November 9, 2017, accessed May 10, 2018.
  33. ^ Deutsche Welle ( Empty walls, big ideas in the German Biennale Pavilion | DW | 05/22/2021. Retrieved on May 22, 2021 (German).
  34. Daniele Muscionico: Biennale Architettura 2021: Swiss team Orae impresses. Retrieved May 22, 2021 .
  35. Swiss appearance at the Venice Biennale questions borders. Retrieved May 22, 2021 .
  36. Austrians question platform urbanism at the Biennale. May 19, 2021, accessed May 22, 2021 .