Teachers' Blog

Heading to Venice!

From May 13th through November 26 2017, the massive event of the 57th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition is taking place.  Venice has a great connection by high-speed train to Florence, which is an hour and a quarter from Siena.  The Venice Biennale is an exciting major event in the world of contemporary art, sometimes called the "Olympics of Art".  The oldest and arguably the most prestigious international exhibition of contemporary art, it began back in 1895, and takes place every two years in the enchanting city of Venice. 
Visiting Venice makes an excellent long-weekend trip from Siena.  Door-to-door public transport can get you there in about 4.5 hours, so I recommend staying overnight for one or two nights so that you have enough time to enjoy the artwork and the city itself.  
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The two main areas of the Biennale exhibition, the Giardini and Arsenale venues, are open to the public from Saturday 13 May to Sunday 26 November 2017.  There are also numerous collateral events taking place throughout Venice, with many exhibitions representing artists from all over the world. Three countries participating for the first time in the Biennale include Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, and Nigeria.
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This year's Biennale is entitled VIVA ARTE VIVA and is curated by Christine Macel (b. Paris 1969).  In her curatorial statement she writes:

At a time of global disorder, art embraces life, even if doubt ensues inevitably. The role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are more crucial than ever before within the framework of contemporary debates. It is in and through these individual initiatives that the world of tomorrow  takes shape, which though surely uncertain, is often best intuited by artists than others.  VIVA ARTE VIVA is an exclamation, a passionate outcry for art and the state of the artist. VIVA ARTE VIVA is a Biennale designed with artists, by artists and for artists, about the forms they propose, the questions they ask, the practices they develop and the ways of life they choose.

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I recommend visiting the website of the Biennale before you visit:


There is an overwhelming array of artwork on view, so it can be very useful to do your research ahead of time, look over reviews and blog posts, and map out your path to get around to the areas you are most interested in.
Personally I find the work of Mark Bradford very interesting, the American artist selected to represent the United States Pavillion in the Giardini for the 57th Venice Biennale, presented by the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and The Baltimore Museum of Art, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.  Bradford's artwork is very engaged in physicality and material textures as well as the social and cultural content of materials. The exhibition statement reads: 

Bradford’s longtime social and intellectual interests will be present in the Pavilion, most notably in his concern for marginalized people, both their vulnerability and their resiliency, and the cyclical threat and hope of American unfulfilled social promise. Coming at a moment of terrible uncertainty,Tomorrow is Another Day is a narrative of ruin, violence, agency, and possibility, a story of ambition and belief in art’s capacity to engage us all in urgent and profound conversations, and even action.

In addition to the exhibition of his artwork in the Giardini, Mark Bradford's activities extend to the community of Venice itself.  He has founded a project called PROCESS COLLETTIVO, collaborating with the Venitian non-profit organization Rio Terà dei Pensieri with the goal of working for six years to increase opportunities for jobs and training within prisons and for recently-released prisoners in Venice.
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As you plan out your visit to the Venice Biennale,  you should anticipate that there will be lines to get into many of the main pavilion spaces, especially during the summer when the Biennale is swamped with visitors.  Make sure to budget extra time into your schedule with that in mind, and bring good walking shoes, a water bottle, and snacks.  Visiting the Venice Biennale is inevitably an exhausting and overwhelming a marathon experience, but well worth it for the chance to see in person such a vast array of artwork providing a glimpse into work of cutting-edge contemporary artists from around the world! 

Lisa Nonken

Drawing Teacher