The Biennale exhibitions of the 1960s started with a crescendo of polemics both due to the great number of artists invited, and to what came to be defined as the "excessive power of the critic", which was seen to impose modes and styles. The opinion of many was that it was the critic that determined the rise of the Informal movement at the Biennale in 1960. Grand Awards for painting were presented to the French artists Fautrier and Hartung, and to the Venetian painter Emilio Vedova, for whom this award meant international recognition.
The 1964 edition was a real turning point for the Biennale: the Prize for foreign artist was presented to the American painter Robert Rauschenberg, thus marking the arrival of Pop Art in Europe. Due to this overawing success, the other exhibitions of that edition did not receive much attention. An exhibition entitled Art in Museums Today, was set up in the Museo Correr, and in the Napoleonic Wing, Giacomo Manzù presented an exhibition of bronze studies of The Door of Death for the Vatican Basilica of Saint Peter's, whilst other retrospectives were dedicated to Felice Casorati and Pio Semeghini.
After Pop Art, the Biennale of 1966 seemed almost a return to rationality and rigour. It was the year of optical and kinetic art, and arte programmata . The exhibition spaces of the Giardini were dominated with installations by the Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc, awarded the prize for painting, and the work of the Venezuelan artist Raphael Soto. In the Italian section, Lucio Fontana's "cuts" and Alberto Viani's plaster sculptures were also awarded prizes. Amongst the retrospectives, the most notable were those dedicated to Umberto Boccioni and Giorgio Morandi, who died during the period of the vernissage in 1964.
The next Biennale was struck by the 1968 protests. Demonstrations and disorder characterised the 35th edition, artists from many different countries took part in the manifestations, and as a sign of solidarity, either covered up their works or turned them over. Some historical exhibitions were not even opened. The central pavilion hosted a very ambitious exhibition entitled Lines of Research with works by Malevich, Duchamp, Calder, Rauschenberg, and Gorky. The inaguration took place without any major disruption. Grand Prizes were awarded to Schoffer and Riley for foreign artist participation, and to Gianni Colombo and Pino Pascali (who died one month previously) for the Italian section.