1964: The rise of Pop Art
The sensational arrival of Pop Art in 1964 gave new life to the Biennale. The prize for foreign artist was awarded to Robert Rauschenberg, shifting the focus of pictorial research from Europe to the United States of America. Pop Art was also represented in Venice by Jasper Johns, Jim Dine, and Claes Oldenburg.
A collateral exhibition of pop artists was planned and realized by Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend in the ex-American Consulate at San Gregorio. This additional exhibition proved America's commitment to Pop Art. The General Secretary Gian Alberto Dell'Acqua, claimed that this additional exhibition at San Gregorio was necessary, due to the sheer size and quantity of the works.
The Grand Prize awarded to Rauschenberg provoked much heated discussion amongst the members of the international jury. The French accused the Biennale of introducing American "cultural colonisation". As Rauschenberg exhibited only four paintings in the official pavilion, a few other works exhibited at San Gregorio were quickly transferred to the Giardini as soon as news of the prize had spread. The stir that Pop Art had caused amongst the European press and critics somewhat cast a shadow over the other exhibitions included in the 1964 edition.