May You Live In Interesting Times

Date of event: 11/05/19 - 24/11/19

The Venice Biennale 2019

The most prestigious art exhibition is currently in motion right now, hosting the works of 79 international participants and welcoming its strong footfall of ~500,000 visitors.

The Venice Biennale has been evolving for 120 years, with the very first exhibition “Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia” being opened by Italian King Umberto I and Margherita of Savoy on April 30, 1895.

This year the 58th La Biennale di Venezia has been curated by Ralph Rugoff (director of the Hayward Gallery in London) under the title ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’.

You can find out more about the history of the festival and its evolution throughout the years here.

Guari Gill

What Does The Theme Mean?

The title itself, ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’, is an English translation to a Chinese curse. The seemingly complimentary expression is used ironically in order to wish conflict upon the recipient, as ‘uninteresting’ would imply a life with peace.

“…times in which fake news has real effects”

Ralph Rugoff, Director of Hayward Gallery

However, Ralph Rugoff has stated that the art exhibition “will not have a theme per se, but will highlight a general approach to making art and a view of art’s social function as embracing both pleasure and critical thinking.”

Biennale Bonus Facts

  • The first Biennale was introduced in 1895 as an exhibition to celebrate the silver anniversary of the Italian King and Queen.
  • The Venice Biennale (Biennale di Venezia) originally referred to both an arts organisation in Venice as well as an international biennial exhibition of contemporary visual art that the organisation presented.
  • To make things easier, in 2009 the organisation changed its name to Biennale Foundation, and the exhibition’s title became Art Biennale (Biennale d’Art)
  • The Biennale Foundation organises the Art Biennale, the Architecture Biennale, the Cinema Biennale, the Dance Biennale, the Music Biennale, and the Theatre Biennale in Venice.
  • The new festivals were introduced in the 1930s (Music, Film and Theatre)
  • The Venice Film Festival was born in 1932 and was the first film festival in history.
  • In 1980 was when the first international Architecture Exhibition took place
  • In 1999 Dance was welcomed to the Biennale
  • The biennale theme was only introduced in 1973
  • Only the Art Biennale and the Architecture Biennale are held every two years
  • The Art Biennale takes place in odd years
  • The Architecture Biennale takes place in even years
  • La Biennale di Venezia was the first of its kind, inspiring other biennales such as Biennale de Paris (b.1959), Sao Paulo Biennial (b.1951), and Manifesta a.k.a The European Biennial of Contemporary Art (b.1996) to name a few.
Liu Wei

The best place to get all the information you need is from the official Venice Biennale website. However, it can be overwhelming to even know where to start. Here is a fantastic ArtNet roundup of a selection of guides, reviews and interviews surrounding the Venice Biennale, so you can read up before you go.

For those thinking of visiting with less time to spare, CN Traveler has curated your Venice trip for you to a T. This article enables you to prioritise what to see depending on your schedule.

So, who is lucky enough to be experiencing the Biennale Arte 2019? Let us know if you lived in interesting times…

Photography courtesy of Sophie Ogunyemi.