The 60th Venice Art Biennale

The 60th Venice Art Biennale

The 60th Venice Art Biennale looks to the Global South in an edition marked by the war in Gaza
In this year's edition, curated by Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa, 331 artists from 87 countries participate.

The pigeons that fluttered around Venice, with their drenched plumage, seemed this Tuesday to be one of the few signs of normality in a city taken over by the unstable weather and the Art Biennale. The event, which in 2024 celebrates its 60th anniversary, opens its doors to the accredited press this week, and the virulent wind and rain storm meant, in mid-afternoon, an unexpected mishap, especially for the delegations from southern Europe. lately more accustomed to droughts than anything else. That is what the first artists (of the 331 of the 87 countries participating in the exhibition) had also experienced had already arrived at the place.
The pre-opening (in English, as the Italians write it), which is the presentations prior to the public opening (this year, on April 20), otherwise, left the local population somewhat indifferent, quite accustomed to the motto chosen this year for the large group exhibition: "Foreigners everywhere." Venice, a city of adventurers and explorers for centuries, today welcomes up to 40,000 tourists a day (which have reached 100,000, at festivals), while its population continues to decline.

The attempt, however, could not be more topical at a time of new fractures and old resentments between the rich countries, mostly in the northern hemisphere, and the so-called Global South. It was the Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa, the first Latin American curator of the exhibition, who wanted to once again look away from the contest of Occidentalism, in order to reread modernity in a global key. With this idea, Pedrosa has divided the sections dedicated to Portraits, Abstractions and Italian artistic diaspora, which brings together works of the 20th century from Latin America, Asia, the Arab world and Africa. A concept, this, already partly protagonist in the 2022 Biennial, in which Cecilia Alemani proposed going beyond the “ideal of a white man”, to give more space to women and historically less represented ethnic groups.
Politics and culture
Precisely in reference to the African continent, which participates with 14 countries, some have also begun to call this edition of the biennial competition black. The main reason is a group of countries that are making their debut because they have never been there before (among them, Benin, Ethiopia and Tanzania), while others have had their own pavilion for the first time; example is Senegal. In a similar vein, Argentina, Spain - which opens on Wednesday -, Mexico and Brazil, have also dedicated certain relevance to another issue, the indigenous issue, each in their own way.

Even so, if the news of some has given something to talk about, the absences have also aroused interest. Once again, Russia is not among the participating countries and, after a first moment in which it was announced that its space would remain closed, it has finally been announced that Bolivia will occupy it. The reason, of course, is Moscow's war in Ukraine. The latter country, however, does participate.

A different case has been that of Israel. After some voices demanded its exclusion in recent months due to the war that Tel Aviv maintains in Gaza and that the Italian Government refused to do so, it was finally the curator Ruth Patir who, at the last minute, declined to open the pavilion . That will only happen, she said, when “a ceasefire agreement and hostage release is reached.” The decision was also communicated with a sign placed on the outside of the pavilion's glass façade, inside which a video work titled Keening was to be exhibited, which was intended to talk about the vulnerability of life.
The exhibition, one of the most important international showcases in this sector, has also imposed a certain climate of euphoria in local authorities. The mayor of the city, Luigi Brugnaro, is vice president of an event that “attracts many intellectuals and thinkers to Venice, it represents a breath of fresh air for the city,” as the Councilor for Tourism, Simone Venturini, explained to Spanish media.
Meanwhile, the hoteliers of Venice have already started August in particular. A room in the city these days borders on astronomical figures, which has led many of the less wealthy visitors to settle in Mestre, a lesser-known part of the iconic city, located on the mainland. From there they will have to travel to have access, too, to a small piece of the prestigious event that will remain open until November.