Colors and canals: Venice Art Biennale
What is the Venice Art Biennale?
Or as they also call it, La Biennale, is a contemporary visual art exhibition, which is held in Venice biennially, in odd-numbered years. The first exhibition was held in 1895, and since then it became one of the most important international art exhibitions in the world.
The Venice Art Biennale in 2017 takes place on the following dates: May 13th – November 26th. In this period, the whole city of Venice becomes one large art exhibition: you can find national pavilions with exhibitions in the palaces of Venice, in the main venues (Arsenale and Giardini) or spot some unique art installations in the streets of Venice. The city of gondolas and beautiful masks becomes one with art for this period of the year.
The Biennale grew a lot throughout the years, as more and more countries wanted to participate and showcase their artists works at this important event. In this year’s edition there are more than 80 participating countries, 120 invited artists, special projects and 23 Collateral Events. The theme of the Venice Art Biennale this year is Viva Arte Viva: “Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions. The role, the voice and the responsibility of the artist are more crucial than ever, within the framework of contemporary debates.” (Christine Macel, Curator of the 57th International Art Exhibition).
The Venice Art Biennale is not the only major event that takes place in Venice. The event was extended with several sections, which are as important as the Art Biennale itself: contemporary music, cinema, theater, dance and architecture. You can read a detailed history of the Biennale di Venezia here.
How to buy tickets for the Venice Art Biennale?
Detail from the Arsenale
Tickets for the Venice Art Biennale can be bought online or at the entrance of the main venues.
There are several types of tickets to choose from. You can check all the information about the tickets on the website of the La Biennale di Venezia. The tickets are valid for the two main venues of the Biennale: Giardini and Arsenale. However, there are several national pavilions and exhibitions across Venice, which are free to the public.
The most common tickets are:
1 day ticket for Arsenale and Giardini: You can use this ticket on different or non-consecutive days to enter the two main venues (e.g. 1 day for Giardini, another day for Arsenale). This ticket grants you one entry: after leaving the venue, you can’t go back. Cost of the ticket: 23,50 € (online) and 25 € at the entrance.
48 hour pass: This ticket is valid for two days after the first validation, and it grants you multiple entries for each of the main venues (Giardini and Arsenale). These tickets can be used with a valid ID card. Cost of the ticket: 31,50 €.
I strongly advise you to buy your tickets online, as they are cheaper (a regular ticket costs 25 € at the entrance) and you get to skip the queues. A part of online store is in Italian, but don’t let that scare you: choose the promo web tickets. Upon entering the main venues, you’ll need your tickets printed. Make sure you print tickets in advance!
If you are a student or under the age of 26, you can get discounts! I bought my discounted ticket this way, as I’m turning 26 soon. (I’m crying inside silently.)
There are several exhibitions around Venice which are for free! You can find a map on the 16th and 17th pages of this official brochure.
When to visit the Venice Art Biennale
The 17th edition of the Venice Art Biennale started on 13th May and you can visit it until 26th November. The Biennale is held every two years, on odd-numbered years. The next event will be in 2019, but you can still visit the Biennale of Architecture next year!
Here are a few tips to know before visiting the Biennale di Venezia:
- The main exhibitions are usually closed on Mondays (except on May 15th, August 14th, Sept. 4th, Oct. 30th and Nov. 20th)
- Each exhibition can be visited during 10AM-6PM
- The Arsenale is open until 8PM on Fridays and Saturdays (until 30th September)
- Allocate at least one day to visit the Giardini and Arsenale. We managed to see all the exhibitions at the main venues, but I think each of them requires one full day to enjoy everything without rushing.
Chinese pavilion, Arsenale
I visited the Biennale twice, in 2015 and 2017. Each time I went to Venice, it was autumn: late November the first time, and early October the second time. In my opinion, autumn is the best time to visit it (though I haven’t been during the summer) for one reason: it is COLD. Well, not freezing cold, just cold enough to not faint between two exhibitions, not feel exhausted after walking 15 kilometers a day, cold enough to reduce the number of visitors, and cold enough to wear your favorite jacket in the evening.
How to get to the Giardini and Arsenale?
The Arsenale and the Giardini (these are the two main venues) are located on the eastern part of the island of Venice. The two locations are close to each other (15 minutes walking).
You can get there by vaporetto (water bus), water taxi (pretty expensive) or by walking.
To Giardini by vaporetto: Lines 4.2, 5.2. you’ll have to get off at the Giardini Biennale station.
To Arsenale by vaporetto: Line 4.1, you’ll have to get off at the Arsenale station.
A ticket for a vaporetto ride costs 7.5 euros and it is valid for 75 minutes (a ride from Venezia Santa Lucia train station to the Giardini with vaporetto is around 45 minutes). There is an insane amount of people on the water buses, but if you are lucky to get a seat outside, you’ll get an amazing view of Venice.
You can buy tickets from the ticket office or online. We chose to pay for the tickets online via the official app to skip the queues.
How to get to the venues by walking? Well, put on some comfortable shoes and try not to get lost…more than 25 times 😀 Joke aside, use Google maps, maps.me (you can use it offline) or the Ulmon offline map of Venice to get there. Oh, and good luck! 🙂
What to visit during the Venice Art Biennale
The collateral events in Venice
hidden, magical, treasure hunt-like, creative, underestimated
We spent an entire day hunting for pallazzos in Venice which hosts some of the exhibitions that are free to attend during the Biennale. If you decide that you don’t want to visit the main venues, visit at least 3-4 free exhibitions to fall in love with the Biennale (and you will change your mind).
One of those moments that make you fall in love with the Biennale
There is something magical about finding a palace full of mind-blowing contemporary art in Venice. It sends shivers down my spine, just by writing this. We walked more than 15 kilometers, got lost, got hungry, thirsty, stressed, exhausted- but it was worth it. These places add a unique aspect and a value to an exhibition, and wandering to an old palace surrounded by art- that’s like heaven 🙂
fun, unique, refreshing, colorful, thoughtful, contemporary
Since it all started here, the Giardini (or the Garden) is definitely one of those places that you should not miss at the Art Biennale in Venice.
Details of the Hungarian pavilion in Giardini
The Giardini hosts pavilions of 30 countries from all around the world. These national pavilions were built throughout the years, some of them are more than 100 year old. From 1907 on a lot of countries wanted their own pavilion, as the art event became more popular and recognized in the world.
Walking through the Giardini and visiting the pavilions is like taking a step back in time and walking through history – the Czech and Slovak pavilions are still called Czechoslovakia!
The Giardini was my favorite place. We arrived there already exhausted. This worn out state was probably the best way to experience some of the raw and shocking art installations. The exhibitions were more country-centered, rather than artist centered. It felt like I was taking a visit to the countries through their art. And that is a feeling I won’t forget until the next Biennale.
abstract, overwhelming, coherent, collective
Going through all the exhibitions and artworks in the Arsenale is exhausting- we left the place with our thoughts still wandering in the awed, dark halls of the Arsenale.
The Arsenale is the main venue of the event. It is rather a “guided” exhibition- guided by the layout of the building.
Venice Art Biennale 2017 highlights
Here are a few highlights from the 57th edition Of the Venice Art Biennale: pavilions, moments, art installations, and feelings. Dedicated to my best friend, Timi.
Russian pavilion, Giardini
Detail from the Arsenale
Growing mold at the Israel pavilion
Colors of the Arsenale
Entrance of the Korean pavilion at the Giardini
Where to stay during the Venice Art Biennale
Choosing the best place to stay during the Venice Art Biennale is tough: hotels in Venice tend to get full, so if you haven’t booked ahead, chances are you won’t find any rooms at reasonable prices during the Biennale.
We found it more convenient to stay on the main land and travel 20 minutes by train to Venice, which can be a good solution if you can’t find a hotel in Venice. Experiencing the Biennale while actually staying in Venice can be a unique and once in a lifetime feeling, so check ahead the prices and availability of rooms in Venice: