Canada Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
Newly restored Canada Pavilion unveiled at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition
After six decades presenting some of the country’s most celebrated artists and architects, the Canada Pavilion in Venice, Italy has undergone a major, $3-million restoration. The designated heritage building is an important architectural landmark in the Giardini di Castello, the traditional site of the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia. Restored to its original 1957 design with functional upgrades, the renewed Pavilion was officially unveiled on May 26, 2018 at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition.
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.
of a Showcase
Tucked between the pavilions of Great Britain and Germany, the Canada Pavilion embraces its wooded site. The building fully integrates two large living trees within its perimeter walls. Shaped in plan like a nautilus shell, the building spirals out from a tapered octagonal column at its centre that supports the dramatic beams of its roof structure. When the Pavilion was unveiled in June 1958, it was described as a “small jewel of a showcase.”
Prompted by the building’s precarious state of disrepair and functional limitations, a project for the rehabilitation of the Canada Pavilion was initiated in 2014. Originally designed by Enrico Peressutti of the renowned Milanese architectural studio BBPR (Banfi, Belgiojoso, Peressutti, Rogers) in 1956, the Canada Pavilion was completely restored by architect Alberico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, heir to the BBPR studio, working in close cooperation with Venice-based architect Troels Bruun of M+B Studio. The surrounding landscape has been revitalized by la Biennale di Venezia in collaboration with acclaimed Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and Bryce Gauthier of Enns Gauthier Landscape Architects. Learn more
The four-year restoration was led by the National Gallery of Canada with the support of La Biennale di Venezia and the Venice Superintendent for Architectural Heritage, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and Global Affairs Canada with the exceptional collaboration of the Canadian Embassy in Rome. Learn more
City out of Time
In the spring of 1958, director Colin Low and a team from the National Film Board of Canada filmed a documentary in Venice: City out of Time. Watch excerpts from the film, which feature images of the Canada Pavilion when it was newly constructed.