The Venice Biennale is the oldest and most important curated contemporary art event in the world—a place where art, ideas, and international diplomacy intersect.
With visitor attendance levels of well over half a million per season, this prestigious event offers Canadian artists unparalleled exposure to the world’s top contemporary curators, collectors, dealers, arts writers, influencers and other artists.
The Venice Biennale is the only international visual arts exhibition to which Canada sends official representation. Artists showing at the Biennale raise their global profile and, by association, that of Canada and Canadian artists.
The National Gallery at the Venice Biennale
Canada began participating in the Biennale in 1952, sharing space in the international section of the Esposizione internazionale d’arte della città di Venezia. In 1958, at the invitation of the City of Venice, Canada opened its own pavilion, under the auspices of the National Gallery of Canada, in the Giardini, the main venue of the biannual art festival. Designed and built by the celebrated Studio BBPR of Milan, the Canada Pavilion is considered an important architectural feature of the Giardini to this day, and enjoys special heritage designation.
Canada’s representation at the Biennale has played a part in shaping the role and place of Canadian contemporary art within international circles, elevating the international careers of many of the country’s most celebrated artists, including Emily Carr, David Milne, Jean Paul Riopelle, Alex Colville, Guido Molinari, Michael Snow, General Idea, Geneviève Cadieux, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Rebecca Belmore, David Altmejd, Shary Boyle, Geoffrey Farmer, and the artist collective Isuma.
Today, the National Gallery of Canada oversees Canada’s representation at the Venice Biennale. The Director’s Office convenes a national jury to select the artist. The Gallery leadership role includes providing administrative, fundraising and curatorial support to the project. In 2010, the National Gallery of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, made a 10-year commitment to secure the future of Canadian participation at the Venice Biennale. In 2013 the National Gallery of Canada Foundation and its Board of Directors made the Venice Biennale a national priority and embarked on a major new fundraising strategy that would concurrently finance the restoration of the Canada Pavilion, fund the art exhibition in the pavilion every two years, and work toward a self-sustaining model and revenue stream for the future.
Click here to learn more about how you can support Canadian Artists in Venice through The Canadian Artists in Venice Endowment and The Canadian Artists in Venice Exhibition Fund 2021