Beyond the Biennale - A Guide to Must-See Art Exhibitions in Venice

24 Apr 2024

by ArtRabbit

Explore Venice beyond the Biennale with our curated guide to the most compelling exhibitions. From international collaborations to insightful cultural dialogues, discover art hidden across the city. Perfect for art aficionados and casual explorers alike.

As the Venice Biennale 2024 takes full swing, there's a vibrant tapestry of art exhibitions across the city waiting to be discovered. From the Giardini to the Arsenale, and beyond to the nooks and crannies of Venice, our comprehensive guide and interactive map feature not only the pavilions and 30 official collateral events but also exceptional exhibitions dotted throughout Venice. Here are five standout shows that capture the essence of this season's artistic fervour.

LACMA’s Zeng Fanzhi: Near and Far/Now and Then at Scuola Grande della Misericordia

In a striking display of international collaboration, LACMA's exhibition "Zeng Fanzhi: Near and Far/Now and Then", held at the historic Scuola Grande della Misericordia, showcases new oil paintings and works on paper by Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964). This Venice Biennale concurrent show was one of the most impressive presentations we saw outside the National Pavilions, masterfully pairing the virtuosic, Beijing-based painter with the renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando (b. 1941).

Zeng, known for his large-scale canvases that blend abstraction and figuration along with Eastern and Western influences, collaborates with Ando, a self-taught Pritzker Prize winner known for his transformative use of concrete to craft airy, light-filled spaces. Together, they have created an environment that embodies a strange, poetic convergence of art and architecture.

The exhibition explores Zeng’s latest breakthroughs, featuring works that draw on Impressionist and Pointillist methods, alongside pieces that incorporate diverse religious and philosophical symbols, marking a new direction in his practice.

Entry is free.

The Spirits of Maritime Crossing at Palazzo Smith Mangilli Valmarana

Presented by the Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB) Foundation, "The Spirits of Maritime Crossing" is a profound exploration of displacement, diaspora, and colonialism through the oceanic lens. This group exhibition features 15 Southeast Asian artists from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand. Utilising a variety of mediums—painting, sculpture, mixed media, and video installations—the show addresses the complex realities and diverse cultures and histories of the region, contrasting them with Western narratives in Venice. Notable works include a film directed by Prof. Dr. Apinan Poshyananda with performances by Marina Abramović and Thai dance artist Pichet Klunchun, along with other significant pieces like "Calling for Rain" by Khvay Samnang and "The Sea is a Blue Memory" by Priyageetha Dia.

"The Spirits of Maritime Crossing" offers a cultural journey from Southeast Asia to Venice, providing insights into the experiences of diaspora and cultural hybridity—themes of identity, foreignness, and community among refugees, immigrants, and stateless individuals.

The venue, Palazzo Smith Mangilli Valmarana, adds historical resonance to the exhibition. Once home to British Consul Joseph Smith, an avid art collector and agent to Canaletto, this palazzo became a vibrant hub for art lovers and intellectuals in the 18th century. Neoclassically styled by Giannantonio Selva, the palazzo reopened after 12 years for this display, continuing its legacy as a cultural beacon with this compelling exhibition.

Entry is free.

Robert Indiana: The Sweet Mystery at the Procuratie Vecchie

Curated by Matthew Lyons and organised by Yorkshire Sculpture Park with support from The Robert Indiana Legacy Initiative, “Robert Indiana: The Sweet Mystery” is a notable Collateral Event of the 60th Venice Biennale. Just opened at the historic Procuratie Vecchie, which has been restored by Pritzker Prize-winning architect David Chipperfield, this exhibition offers a revelatory perspective on Indiana's work. It explores themes of spirituality, identity, and the human condition, which are pivotal to understanding his creative evolution. Featuring over 30 works spanning six decades, including significant early works and major paintings and sculptures, it marks one of the most significant presentations of Indiana’s work in Italy.

The exhibition is installed across 9 galleries on the 2nd floor of the Procuratie Vecchie. On the third floor, you will find “A World of Potential,” an immersive exhibition focusing on social inclusion, innovation, and sustainability. This is also a wonderful experience, particularly suitable for families with children—so do drop by there too.

Entry is free.

AKKA Project during the 60th Venice Art Biennale

AKKA Project Contemporary African Art Gallery kicks off with “Unspoken Wars”, a compelling exhibition showcasing striking photographs and paintings by Mário Macilau (b. 1984, Mozambique) and Nahom Teklehaimanot (b. 1991, Ethiopia). Following this, the gallery features Michael Hailu’s (b. 1999, Ethiopia) inaugural solo exhibition. Alongside, AKKA Project maintains its Artist Residencies tradition, hosting Osaru Obaseki (b. 1993, Nigeria), Leila Rose Fanner (b. 1970, South Africa), and Beau Disundi Nzazi (b. 1993, DRC). Post-residency, each artist receives a solo show to display the works they created during their Venetian stay.

Entry is free.

H2O Venezia: Diari d'Acqua / Water Diaries by Lapis Lazuli: artE and Fondazione Barovier&Toso

This group exhibition emerges from an artist-in-residence programme that selected five emerging artists—Alizée Gazeau, Marija Jaensch, Amy Thai, Sofía Toribio, and Jiaying Wu—from around the globe to capture Venice through their art. Centred around the theme 'Water Diaries', the exhibition draws direct inspiration from the city, presenting an array of paintings, sculptures, works on paper, textiles, and installations. The show runs through the entire Biennale but is closed in August. You can preview the stunning artworks at lapislaz.com.

Entry is free.

→ More exhibitions and events in Venice, London, Berlin, New York, and Los Angeles

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