Everything You Need to Know about the Biennale
The Venice Biennale (la Biennale di Venezia), an international art exhibition (founded in 1895) takes place every two years, and lasts six months. The pre-opening week may be an opportunity for the art-dealers and artists to party during the Biennale vernissages, and I think that this week is the best week of the year since you can enjoy free cocktails and mingle with fashionistas inside the various smaller pavilions and palaces all over the city. Over subsequent months the Biennale art exhibition attracts thousands of ‘normal’ visitors and brings neglected bits of the city to life.
The original base of the Biennale is at the Giardini (walk to or get off at the Giardini vaporetto stop and follow the red signs), a park near the waterfront in the Castello district. Over the years various countries built permanent ‘pavilions’ here to host their shows. Venice’s old naval shipyard, the Arsenale, also houses part of the present-day event.
Biennale is open to the public May 9, 2015-November 22, 2015.
Hours of operation: 10am-6pm and closed on Mondays.
: This year, the Biennale ends on November 22, 2015, so I suggest taking advantage of the free exhibits that are displayed by different countries in smaller venues representing that country all across the city of Venice. Enjoy the adventure of searching out these little jewels throughout the city. It’s like treasure hunt!
A ticket for these two bases costs €20 – you can enter one section one day and the other on a different day.
: There are reductions for holders of various Venice tourist cards, students and those under 26.
Official Biennale Site: www.labiennale.org
- Get a free map at the main Biennale entrance or a tourist office (although sometimes they run out) to see the locations of the satellite country pavilions (many of which are free!).
- Download the free iPad/iPhone app
- Take your time. It’s recommended to split up the days you intend on seeing the large main exhibits, i.e. Giardini main location and Arsenale, since these are huge areas with tons of exhibits which requires lots of walking.
- If you’re sweet-blooded, be sure to bring some insect repellent because the leafy areas are prime breeding areas for blood-sucking mosquitoes. I learned this the hard way.
Additional Information on Biennale
Various other events take place under the Biennale umbrella organization, including the prestigious Film Festival, and a modern dance festival. On even-numbered years there is an Architecture Biennale, which follows much the same pattern as the art one.
Giardini: The historic base of the Biennale is at Giardini, the public gardens in Venice’s Castello district. This is where the longest-standing national pavilions are located. Even without the art, the buildings themselves, constructed over the last 100 years, are interesting. A few are built around trees, and the buildings reflect changing architectural fashions, along with a bit of that country’s architectural flair. There are shady places to sit under trees to take a break or eat a snack. The nearest vaporetto stop is Giardini.
Arsenale: Be prepared for a lot of walking. This former shipyard (now largely abandoned) covers a massive amount of space – it was the grand military and industrial achievement of the Venetian Republic, building the ships which kept her merchants and her navy so dominant. Most of the art is housed in a long building once used for making rope. Although to walk the length of the site is a long trek, it is worth persevering until the end, where you find yourself in open space by the old fortified entrance to the docks. The covered dock is one of the most photogenic parts of the great water basin.
Interesting Fact: In the 1100s, Venice’s fleet of over sixteen thousand workers inside the Arsenale could build a perfectly equipped warship in just twelve hours!
See some of the pictures below from my visit to the 2011 Venice Art Biennale exhibition.