It’s the “grandest, most prestigious, most influential fixture in the art world calendar," writes Scott Reyburn in The New York Times. The Venice Biennale, held every two years, began as the world’s first Art Exposition in 1895, “created to stimulate and inspire artistic creativity and provide an art market for Venice and for Italy,” explains Italia. “No city is more ideally suited to hosting a major international art show than Venice,” writes Jonathan Glancey in The Telegraph. “Millions of people throng here to experience its artistic wonders cocooned in an equal number of architectural wonders, while the Art Biennale is never less than a fascinating, if sometimes self-indulgent, counterpoint to acres of Gothic stone and Baroque marble, to innumerable art galleries, masterpieces hung over altars in a congregation of churches and chapels, and a treasury of public sculpture.” It’s an event that tries to “remind the billionaire collectors who park their yachts in Venice, and anyone else paying attention, that there is more to the world than the relentless market cycle of top-end art fairs, dealer shows and auctions,” says Reyburn.
The Biennale is simply the city’s biggest-ticket item. A €30 million event featuring the work of 120 artists from 51 countries, the festival is a seven-month extravaganza which “is now one of the most famous and prestigious cultural organisations in the world,” says A Blog About Venice, “not only about art and architecture, but also theatre, music, cinema and dance.” It’s like “an Olympics for art,” says MoMA PS1 founder, Alanna Heiss, interviewed for Artsy’s Behind the Biennale video, which offers a great overview of the event. The Art and Architecture Bienniales are held on alternating years, and the Biennale covers about 17,000 sq. m. (182,986 sq. ft) in total, notes Italia, “with autonomous side events that run throughout Venice’s six neighborhoods or sestieri.”
And the Biennale isn’t all art … there’s the glamorous Venice Film Festival, which is held annually in September as an extension of the Biennale programme. “Venice may only be tiny,” but it’s home to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars,” writes Lisa Niven at Vogue. In addition, Design.VE is a design fringe festival exploring contemporary Venetian design, while the Venice Glass Week looks at contemporary glasswork. Also beyond the Biennale, the Giorgio Cini Foundation is a dedicated cultural centre hosting endless events, theatre, Unesco conferences and scholarly gatherings. More lectures and screenings are held at the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi.
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