La Biennale di Venezia 57th International Art Exhibition VIVA ARTE VIVA

Open to the public from Saturday May 13th to Sunday November 26th 2017, at the Giardini and the Arsenale, the 57th International Art Exhibition, titled VIVA ARTE VIVA, will be curated by Christine Macel and organized by La Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta. The preview will take place on May 10th, 11th and 12th, the awards ceremony and inauguration will be held on Saturday May 13th 2017.

The Exhibition will also include 84 National Participations in the historic Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the historic city centre of Venice. Four countries will be participating for the first time: Antigua and Barbuda, Kiribati, Nigeria and Kazakhstan (for the first time with its own national pavilion).

The Italian Pavilion at the Tese delle Vergini in the Arsenale, sponsored and promoted by the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo, Direzione Generale Arte e Architettura Contemporanee e Periferie Urbane, will be curated this year by Cecilia Alemani.

Also for this edition, selected Collateral Events are expected. Promoted by non profit national and international institutions, they present their exhibitions and initiatives in Venice during the 57th Exhibition.

The International Exhibition VIVA ARTE VIVA

The Exhibition offers a route that unfolds over the course of nine chapters or families of artists, beginning with two introductory realms in the Central Pavilion, followed by another seven across the Arsenale through the Giardino delle Vergini. 120 are the invited artists from 51 countries; 103 of these are participating for the first time.

La Biennale must present itself as a place whose method—and almost raison d’être—is dedicated to an open dialogue between artists, and between artists and the public.

Paolo Baratta, President of La Biennale di Venezia, presents the Biennale Arte 2017 explaining that the 57th Exhibition introduces a further development. It is as though what has always been our primary work method—encounter and dialogue—has now become the theme of the Exhibition, because this year’s Biennale is dedicated to celebrating, and almost giving thanks for, the very existence of art and artists, whose worlds expand our perspective and the space of our existence.

Christine Macel has called it an Exhibition inspired by humanism. This type of humanism is neither focused on an artistic ideal to follow nor is it characterized by the celebration of mankind as beings who can dominate their surroundings. If anything, this humanism, through art, celebrates mankind’s ability to avoid being dominated by the powers governing world affairs. These powers, if left to their own devices, can greatly affect the human dimension, in a detrimental sense.

In this type of humanism, the artistic act is contemporaneously an act of resistance, of liberation and of generosity.

There is another aspect of the 57th Exhibition – states Baratta – which alone qualifies it, above and beyond all the themes or narrations: of the 120 artists who have been invited to the Exhibition by our curator, 103 are participating here for the first time. Some are discoveries; many others, at least for this year’s edition, are rediscoveries. And these courageous choices, too, are a concrete expression of our confidence in the world of art.

This year, direct encounters with the artists have assumed a strategic role, to the point of becoming one of the pillars of La Biennale, whose program is of unprecedented size and commitment. Our curator’s main Exhibition is surrounded by the 84 pavilions of participating countries, each with its own curator, which will once more bring to life the pluralism of voices which is a hallmark of La Biennale di Venezia.

Christine Macel has declared:

Today, in a world full of conflicts and shocks, art bears witness to the most precious part of what makes us human. Art is the ultimate ground for reflection, individual expression, freedom, and for fundamental questions. Art is the last bastion, a garden to cultivate above and beyond trends and personal interests. It stands as an unequivocal alternative to individualism and indifference.

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.

The Nine Trans-Pavilions:

Each of the nine chapters or families of artists of the Exhibition represents a Pavilion in itself, or rather a Trans-Pavilion as it is trans-national by nature but echoes the Biennale’s historical organisation into pavilions, the number of which has never ceased to grow since the end of the 1990s.

From the “Pavilion of Artists and Books” to the “Pavilion of Time and Infinity”, these nine episodes tell a story that is often discursive and at times paradoxical, with detours that mirror the world’s complexities, a multiplicity of approaches and a wide variety of practices. The Exhibition is intended as an experience, an extrovert movement from the self to the other, towards a common space beyond the defined dimensions, and onwards to the idea of a potential neo-humanism.

VIVA ARTE VIVA also seeks to convey a positive and prospective energy, which whilst focusing on young artists, rediscovers those passed away too soon or those who are still largely unknown despite the importance of their work.

Starting with the Pavilion of Artists and Books, the Exhibition reveals its premise, a dialectic that involves the whole of contemporary society, beyond the artist himself, and addresses the organisation of society and its values.

Art and artists are at the heart of the Exhibition, which begins by examining their practices, the way they create art, halfway between idleness and action, otium and negotium.

A series of parallel events will animate the Exhibition, following the same curatorial premise, which is to place artists at the heart of the exhibition. The catalogue is exclusively dedicated to the artists who are invited to present visual and textual documentation about their practice and their environment.

Open Table (Tavola Aperta)

Artists will be the guiding force behind VIVA ARTE VIVA and they will be given the opportunity to be heard. Every Friday and Saturday of every week, during the six months of the exhibition, artists will host an Open Table (Tavola Aperta) and meet visitors over a casual lunch to hold a lively conversation about their practice. These bi-weekly events will be organized in two dedicated spaces refurbished for this purpose in front of the Central Pavilion of the Giardini and in the new Sala d’Armi in the Arsenale. The Open Table (Tavola Aperta) events will be streamed live on La Biennale’s website.

Artists Practices Project

A permanent space will also be created in both Exhibition venues for the Artists Practices Project, a series of short videos made by the artists about themselves and their way of working. Starting from February 7th until the opening of the Exhibition, videos will be uploaded on la Biennale’s website, giving the public the opportunity to become familiar with the invited artists.

These two parallel projects – commented Macel – are open to all artists in the Art Biennale. All National Pavilions are welcome to host their own Open Table (Tavola Aperta) event on Wednesdays and Thursdays, also to enrich with videos the database on the artists.

Unpacking My Library

Finally, the project titled Unpacking My Library, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s essay published in 1931, allows the artists of VIVA ARTE VIVA to compile a list of their favourite books. This is both a way to get to know the artists better and a source of inspiration for the public. The list of books will be published in the exhibition at the Central Pavilion and in the catalogue. The books listed by all the participating artists will be available to visitors at the Stirling Pavilion in the Giardini.

Special projects and performances

Several special, site specific and performance projects have been commissioned especially for the Giardini, the Giardino delle Vergini and other venues around the city of Venice. A dense programme of approximately twenty performances will be held during the opening week. The performances will all be streamed live on La Biennale’s website. The videos will remain on view in a dedicated room of the Arsenale.


For the second consecutive year La Biennale di Venezia confirms the collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum of London for the Special Project Applied Arts Pavilion, located in Sale d’Armi of the Arsenale. It will be curated by the Cuban artist and sculptor Jorge Pardo, whose work blends art and design together.

The agreement with Teatro La Fenice is renewed for the Special Project dedicated this year to the opera Cefalo e Procri, music by Ernst Krenek and libretto by Rinaldo Küfferle.

Premiered at the Biennale Musica 1934 at Teatro Goldoni, it will be staged at Teatro Malibran in Venice from September 29th to October 7th, 2017. The project is entrusted to the French artist Philippe Parreno, suggested by Christine Macel, curator of Biennale Arte 2017. The initiative continues the collaboration between La Biennale and La Fenice, which is started in 2013 with the Madama Butterfly, whose Japanese artist Mariko Mori designed the sets and costumes under the direction of Àlex Rigola, former artistic director of the Biennale Teatro; and then in 2015, with the new production of Norma, whose stage, set and costumes were designed by the American artist Kara Walker.

BIENNALE SESSIONS, the project for Universities

The Biennale Sessions project will be held again for the eighth consecutive year, following the success of its previous editions. This initiative is dedicated by La Biennale to institutions that develop research and training in architecture, the arts and related fields, and to Universities and Fine Arts Academies. The goal is to offer favourable conditions for students and teachers to organize three-day group visits for fifty people or more, offering reduced price meals, the possibility to organize seminars free of charge at the Exhibition’s venues, and assistance in organizing their journey and stay.


Educational activities will again be offered for the year 2017, addressed to individuals and groups of students from schools of all levels and grades, from universities and fine arts academies, and to professionals, companies, experts, architecture fans and families. These initiatives aim to actively involve participants in both Guided Tours and Creative Workshops.


The official catalogue, titled VIVA ARTE VIVA, consists of two volumes. Volume I is dedicated to the International Art Exhibition, and is edited by Christine Macel. Volume II is dedicated to the National Participations, the Special Projects and the Collateral Events. The Exhibition Guide is conceived to accompany the visitor through the exhibition. The design of the graphic identity of Biennale Arte 2017 and the layout of the books are by Studio deValence, Paris. The 3 books are edited and published by La Biennale di Venezia.

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