Canada has participated in the Biennale since 1952, and artists representing Canada began to show their work in the permanent Canada Pavilion in 1958, when it was inaugurated for the 29th Biennale. Echoing the spiral of a nautilus shell, the glass and wood pavilion was designed by the Milanese architecture firm BBPR and built under the auspices of the National Gallery of Canada with support from the Government of Canada.
From 1952 to 1986, Canadian representation at the Biennale was organized by the National Gallery of Canada. From 1988 until 2009, primary responsibility was transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, working in partnership with the National Gallery and the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2011 the National Gallery of Canada organized Steven Shearer: Exhume to Consume at the Venice Biennale in collaboration with the Canada Council for the Arts.
Today, the National Gallery of Canada and the Canada Council are once again providing leadership and are dedicated to ensuring the continuation of a Canadian presence at the Venice Biennale. Generous donations from private philanthropists and corporations across Canada support the Canada Pavilion and the presentation of Shary Boyle’s work.
Canadian representation throughout the history of the Biennale has helped shape the role and place of the country’s contemporary art within international circles. Past exhibitions at the Canada Pavilion have been a showcase of Canadian artistic achievement and has helped to launch the international careers of many celebrated artists, including Emily Carr, David Milne, Alfred Pellan, Paul-Émile Borduas, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Jean Paul Lemieux, Alex Colville, Guido Molinari, Michael Snow, General Idea, Liz Magor, Geneviève Cadieux, Rodney Graham, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Jana Sterbak, Rebecca Belmore, David Altmejd, Mark Lewis and Steven Shearer, among others.