The new Biennale kicked off: the 48th International Art Exhibition APERTO Over All recovered the historical spaces of the Arsenale (Artiglierie, Isolotto, Tese, Gaggiandre). A new sector was created for live shows: DMT (Dance Music Theatre). From July to October, the Music sector proposed 21 concerts; from August to October the Theatre sector offered 14 shows; on 30th July, the Teatro Verde reopened with Parabola by Carolyn Carlson, and from September to October the Dance sector staged 13 events. From 1st to 11th September, the 56th Mostra del Cinema took place: the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement was awarded to Jerry Lewis.
The Cinema sector presented an ample retrospective dedicated to the cinema of the Balkans, La meticcia di fuoco, held between 30th March and 16th April. Between August and September, as usual, the Mostra del Cinema was held, now at its 57th edition: Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Clint Eastwood. On 18th June, the 7th International Architecture Exhibition opened, tempting over 70,000 visitors to the exhibitions in the Giardini and Arsenale. The Dance Music Theatre sectors offered a dense calendar of events.
A festival entitled Shakespeare & Shakespeare took place 2 to 8 March: all of the Biennale sectors were involved in this homage to the Shakespearian world. Othello, directed by Eimuntas Nekrosius, and Virus, by the dancer-choreographer Nigel Charnock, were premiered during the festival. Also in the program the screening of Indian films based on Shakespeare works and a series of presentations with artists whose work was inspired by the Bard, such as Peter Stein, Peter Greenaway, and Josef Svoboda. Activities from the Dance Music Theatre sectors were organised between 5th May and 6th October: world premieres, co-productions, international congresses, for a total of 45 shows plus repeats. Particular success was enjoyed by the special events in the Theatre sector, La pista e la scena (The Ring and the Stage), held on the mainland at the Parco della Bissuola in Mestre. On 9th June, official opening of the 49th International Art Exhibition Plateau of Humankind - which registered the largest participation of foreign countries in its history (63) and a record for the number of visitors (243,000) over the last 20 years. Between 29th August and 8th September the 58th Mostra del Cinema was held; this edition of the festival introduced the novelty of a double competition by placing the Lion of the Year alongside the traditional Golden Lion; Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Eric Rohmer.
The Temps d'images Festival began on 10th February. Dedicated to the relationship between live performance, new forms of creativity, and television and cinematographic media, the festival also took place in Brussels and Paris. On 15th March, Carolyn Carlson presented her new show Waltz Thru Time. The Dance Music Theatre season started on 2nd May until 29th September. Franco Bernabè was appointed at the beginning of the year as the new President of the Biennale, along with the members of the Board, that are responsible for the planning of the activity in the period 2002-2005. The 59th Intl. Venice Film Festival, directed by Moritz de Hadeln, ran from 29th August until 8th September. The 8th International Architecture Exhibition Next, directed by Deyan Sudjic, took place from 8th September until 3rd November, receiving over 101,000 visitors.
The International Art Exhibition presented its 50th edition: Dreams and Conflicts - The Dictatorship of the Viewer was the title chosen by director Francesco Bonami. The exhibition was open June 15 to November 2 and attracted the record number of 260,000 visitors. The public had the chance to meet a number of leading figures from the world of culture in over 120 presentations organized at the Arsenale by the Archive of the Contemporary-ASAC, directed by Giuliano da Empoli, and entitled 99-every idea but one and Tipping Point. The performing art sectors organized their programs reviving the formula of international festivals which are characteristic of the Venice Biennale's history: the 1st Intl. Dance Festival, directed by Frédéric Flamand, took place in June and July; the 47th Intl. Music Festival, directed by Uri Caine, in September; and the 35th Intl. Thetre Festival, directed by Peter Sellars, in October to November 1st. The 60th Intl. Venice Film Festival, directed by Moritz de Hadeln, ran from 27th August until 6th September. On December 23rd, the Italian Government approved the reform of the Biennale, presented by the Minister of Culture, which transformed the Biennale into a Foundation open to contributions from the private sector.
On January 15 the Biennale was transformed into a foundation; in February, Davide Croff was appointed as new president. The 2004 events kicked off with the 2nd Intl. Festival of Contemporary Dance, directed by Karole Armitage, whose two sections ran in June and July. The 36th Intl. Theatre Festival, directed by Massimo Castri, ran September 15 - October 2, and the 48th Intl. Festival of Contemporary Music, directed by Giorgio Battistelli, took place October 14 to 23. Marco Müller was appointed as new director of the Cinema section, and the 61st Mostra Int.le d'Arte Cinematografica (Venice Film Festival) ran September 1-11: Mike Leigh's Vera Drake was awarded the Golden Lion for best film. The 9th Intl. Architecture Exhibition Metamorph, directed by Kurt W. Forster, ran September 12 to November 7 and attracted over 115,000 visitors.