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Recent Years (2001-2011)

The 49th International Art Exhibition took place from June 10 to November 4, 2001, under the title Plateau of Humankind. It was directed, as the 1999 edition, by the Swiss critic Harald Szeemann and attracted over 243,400 visitors. Szeemann said that “No set theme was applied in choosing the artists; indeed, it is their work which decides the dimension of the event. The Venice Biennale hopes to serve as a raised platform offering a view over humankind”.
 
A key work by Joseph Beuys, The End of the Twentieth Century, was exhibited. According to Szeemann, “It was Beuys above all who was the indefatigable spokesman for the concept of liberty”. Alongside Beuys, various other artists of the 20th century were exhibited: “Cy Twombly, whose generous gestures restore myth to the modern world; Richard Serra, the creator of a new concept of the monumental; Niele Toroni, the champion of painting as trace. Then come a number of those contemporary artists who have focused on the human figure – for example, Ron Mueck”.
 
The 50th edition of the International Art Exhibition was directed by Francesco Bonami and took place from June 15 to November 2, 2003. The title was Dreams and Conflicts. The Dictatorship of the Viewer. Bonami said the Exhibition, which attracted over 260,100 visitors, created “a polyphony of voices and thoughts: it is a large body in which different and independent spirits of contemporary art are shown”. Bonami in fact curated three exhibitions within this project: Delays and Revolutions (along with Daniel Birnbaum), Clandestine, and Pittura/Painting, a large retrospective about painting at the Venice Biennale from 1964 to the present day, which took place at the Museo Correr.
Other exhibitions which were part of the overall project included The Zone, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Fault Lines, curated by Gilane Tawadros, Individual Systems, curated by Igor Zabel, Zone of Urgency, curated by Hou Hanru, The Structure of Survival, curated by Carlos Basualdo, Contemporary Arab Representations, curated by Catherine David, The Everyday Altered, curated by Gabriel Orozco, and Utopia Station, curated by Molly Nesbit, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija.
 
The 2005 edition (from June 12 to November 6) presented two distinct yet complementary exhibitions, The Experience of Art directed by María de Corral, and Always a Little Further directed by Rosa Martínez. For the first time in its history, the direction of the Biennale Art Exhibition was entrusted to two directors, both women, both from Spain.
The two main exhibitions were complemented by 70 participating countries and 31 collateral events. Around 915,000 visitors attended the exhibitions in the Biennale venues and in other venues throughout Venice: 265,000 visitors at the two main shows, 370,000 visitors at the exhibitions of 40 countries in Venice, and a further 280,000 visitors at 31 collateral events.
 
The 52nd International Art Exhibition ran June 10 to November 21, 2007. 319,332 people attended the exhibition. This was the most attended Biennale of the past twenty-five years and one of the most visited in the whole history of the exhibition.
The show took place in the 25,000 square-meters spread between the Giardini and the Arsenale, was directed by Robert Storr and included the extraordinary number of 76 National Participations and 34 Collateral Events.
The 42 free entrance National Pavilions spread around the city of Venice, hosted in historical buildings and churches, have been visited by more than 827,000 people. The 34 free entrance Collateral Events set up around Venice and the lagoon islands attracted around 650,000 visitors.

The 53rd International Art Exhibition was directed in 2009 by Daniel Birnbaum and titled Making Worlds. The exhibition ran June 7 to November 22 and attracted 375,702 visitors, which resulted in an 18% increase compared to the previous edition.
Making Worlds consisted of one exhibition articulated in the venues of the renovated Central Pavilion at Giardini and at the Arsenale area, exhibiting more than 90 international artists featuring new works and new artistic languages. 77 National participations and 44 Collateral events were also part of the exhibition. The exhibition space of the Italian Pavilion at the Arsenale was doubled.

In 2011, it was Swiss art historian and critic Bice Curiger who curated the exhibition, titled ILLUMInations. This 54th edition of the International Art Exhibition was another record event, boasting an attendance of over 440,000 visitors (+18% when compared to the previous edition). 83 international artists were exhibited in the main section, 62 of them for the first time, 32 young artists were born after 1975 and 32 were women artists. A record number also for National participations, 89, and a remarkable presence of Collateral events, 37.
The Meetings on Art, a series of conversations with artists, critics and philosophers on the themes of the exhibition, brought the public of the Biennale close to personalities such as Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith, Achille Bonito Oliva, Germano Celant, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Okwui Enwezor, to name but a few.
The special project, Biennale Sessions involved 31 national and international universities who visited the exhibition and organized seminars in a space offered for free by the Biennale.