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La Biennale di Venezia

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The International Exhibition

The 55th International Art Exhibition entitled Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), curated by Massimiliano Gioni and organized by la Biennale di Venezia chaired by Paolo Baratta, opened to the public from Saturday, June 1 to Sunday, November 24, 2013 at the Giardini and at the Arsenale. The preview was on May 29, 30 and 31. The award ceremony and the inauguration took place on Saturday, June 1.

88 National Participations exhibited in the historical Pavilions at the Giardini, at the Arsenale and in the city of Venice. Among these 10 countries participated in the Exhibition for the first time: Angola, BahamasKingdom of BahrainRepublic ofIvory Coast, Republic of KosovoKuwaitMaldivesParaguay and Tuvalu.

The novelty was the participation of the Holy See with an exhibition at the Sale d'ArmiIn Principio was the title chosen by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (President of the Pontifical Council for Culture) for the Pavilion, which was curated by Antonio Paolucci (Director of the Vatican Museums).

The Holy See, Argentina, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates exhibited in the renovated pavilions of la Biennale at the Sale d’Armi in the Arsenale.

That year’s Italian Pavilion at the Arsenale was organized by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities, with PaBAAC General Direction for the Landscape, Fine Arts, Architecture and Contemporary Art, and is curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi. The title of the Exhibition is “vice versa”.

47 Collateral Events, approved by the curator of the International Exhibition and promoted by non profit national and international institutions, took place in several locations in Venice.

A collaboration between La Biennale di Venezia and il Teatro la Fenice featured the Special Project Madama Butterfly. Conceived with the intention to reveal the vitality and modernity of grand opera, the project presented a new Japanese production of the famous work of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. Japanese artist Mariko Mori has designed the sets and costumes, and the opera has been directed by Àlex Rigola (Spain), director of Theatre Biennale since 2010 (Teatro la Fenice June 21 > 30 and October 12 > 31, 2013).

The Exhibition Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace) will be laid out in the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale forming a single itinerary, with works spanning over the past century alongside several new commissions, including over 150 artists from 38 countries.

“Over the years – President Paolo Baratta explains – in representing the contemporary, our curators have shown an increasing desire to place artists in a historical perspective or in a context of mutual affinities, by highlighting ties and relations both with the past and with other artists of the present. At the same time, in contrast with the avant-garde period, attention has increasingly been focused on the intensity of the relationship between the work of art and the viewer who, though shaken by artistic gestures and provocations, ultimately seeks in art the emotion of dialoguing with the work, which ought to cause hermeneutical tension, a desire to go beyond. This is what is expected from art.”

 “The current Biennale – adds Baratta - takes a decisive step in this direction, and gives life to a great exhibition-research. With Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace)Massimiliano Gioni, much more than presenting us with a list of contemporary artists, wishes to reflect on their creative urges and seems to push the question even further: what is the artists' world? The prospective interest goes so far as to search for relations with different worlds; thus the Exhibition presents works by contemporary artists, but also historical works, different references, and works that do not claim to be works of art but which are nonetheless compose the stimuli that allow us to imagine and dream beyond reality, dream another reality. That is, the visions that in the classical period helped arouse artists’ “aspirations,” and in modern times are the “obsessions” of the same; and to give tangible form to both, down to the present time when there is a real reversal. Today, as Gioni’s exhibition suggests, reality lays a plethora of images and visions on a lavishly decked out table; all these images strike us and, though we are unable to escape them, it is perhaps the artist who, if anyone, might pass through them unharmed, as Moses did in the Red Sea.”

 The Exhibition draws inspiration from the model of a utopian dream by Marino Auriti who filed a design with the U.S. Patent office in 1955, depicting his Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace), an imaginary museum that was meant to house all worldly knowledge. Auriti created a model of a 136-story building to be built in Washington D.C., which would stand seven hundred meters tall and take up over sixteen square city blocks.

“Auriti’s plan was never carried out, of course – says Massimiliano Gioni - but the dream of a universal, all-embracing knowledge crops up throughout the history of art and humanity, as one that eccentrics like Auriti share with many other artists, writers, scientists, and self-proclaimed prophets who have tried — often in vain — to fashion an image of the world that will capture its infinite variety and richness. Today, as we grapple with a constant flood of information, such attempts seem even more necessary and even more desperate.”

“Blurring the line between professional artists and amateurs, outsiders and insiders, the exhibition takes an anthropological approach to the study of images, focusing in particular on the realms of the imaginary and the functions of the imagination. What room is left for internal images — for dreams, hallucinations and visions — in an era besieged by external ones? And what is the point of creating an image of the world when the world itself has become increasingly like an image?”

Il Palazzo Enciclopedico (The Encyclopedic Palace) investigates the desire to see and know everything: it is a show about obsessions and about the transformative power of the imagination. The exhibition opens in the Central Pavilion with a presentation of Carl Gustav Jung’s Red Book. “In the vast hall of the Arsenale - redesigned for this occasion in collaboration with architect Annabelle Selldorf - the exhibition sketches a progression from natural forms to studies of the human body, to the artifice of the digital age, loosely following the typical layout of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century cabinets of curiosities. Through the many examples of artworks and figurative expressions on view, including films, photographs, videos, bestiaries, labyrinths, performances and installations, The Encyclopedic Palace emerges as an elaborate but fragile construction, a mental architecture that is as fantastical as it is delirious.”

The Encyclopedic Palace – concludes Gioni - is a show that illustrate a condition we all share: we ourselves are media, channeling images, or at times even finding ourselves possessed by images.”

Biennale Sessions

The Biennale Sessions project istaking place for the fourth year, after the extraordinary success of previous years. This initiative is offered by la Biennale di Venezia to universities and academies of fine arts, and to institutions that develop research and training in the arts and in related fields. La Biennale aims at providing students and teachers with favourable conditions for three-day group visit (of fifty people or more), offering reduced price meals, assistance in organizing their journey and stay, and the possibility to organize seminars at the Exhibition’s venues free of charge. 18 international universities have so far joined the project, including 5 Italian and 13 foreign institutions. Another 12 universities plan to formalize the agreements.

Meetings on Art

La Biennale is also organizing Meetings on Art, a series of lectures, performances and debates that will be enriched this year by a project by Marco Paolini, one of the artists invited by Gioni to participate in the 55th Exhibition. Marco Paolini will tell stories at the Álvaro Siza space in the Giardino delle Vergini, located at very end of the Arsenale. There, he will also present an installation entitled FÉN, a world map composed of hand tools and hay that will serve as an anchor for Paolini’s talks. In the autumn four different Meetings on Art will occur: one on the myth of the self-taught artist, Existence is Elsewhere;one on the anthropology of images and the history of art, Image-Worlds; and one on the encyclopedia and other flights of the imagination, Nothing is Sweeter than Knowing Everything. The last meeting, Let’s Talk About Us, is scheduled for November 24, 2013, the closing day of the 55th International Art Exhibition.

Concerning these two projects of la Biennale, President Paolo Baratta states, “We would like the visit to la Biennale to be included in the curricular activities, and la Biennale to be considered a site for research where people can observe, reflect and carry out projects.”

Also for Biennale Arte 2013, Educational activities will be organised addressed to individuals and groups of students of all grades, to universities and academies of fine arts, and also to professionals, companies, experts, fans and families. These initiatives, conducted by selected a selected team of exhibition guides trained by la Biennale di Venezia, aim to actively involve participants in both Educational Itineraries and Laboratories and creative workshops.

The award and inauguration ceremony of the 55th Exhibition will be held on Saturday June 1 at the Giardini at 11am, with the conferral of the Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement to Maria Lassnig and Marisa Merz, and official awards assigned by the international Jury composed of Jessica Morgan (Great Britain) President of the Jury; Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy (Mexico); Francesco Manacorda (Italy); Bisi Silva (Nigeria); and Ali Subotnick (United States).

Catalogue and short guide

The 55th Exhibition catalogue is composed by two volumes, which together amount to over 700 pages: the first volume, dedicated to the International Exhibition, contains reproductions of the artworks, profiles of the participating artists, and a special section of essays - coordinated by Sina Najafi and Jeffrey Kastner of Cabinetmagazine - in which art historians, philosophers, academics, and writers discuss various forms of obsession, systems of information, adventures in knowledge, and other journeys of the imagination. A second volume is dedicated to National Participations and Collateral Events. A detailed and comprehensive short guide to the Exhibition (over 300 pages) is an essential tool for visiting the Exhibition: contains short monographic texts of all the invited artiststo the 55th Exhibition and includes over 150 entries and articles along with useful information about all the National Pavilions and Collateral Events. Both the exhibition catalogue and short guide are published by Marsilio Editori.

Sponsors and acknowledgements

The preview days and major events held through the 55th Exhibition will be reported by  Ultrafragola tv with a wide coverage composed by reports and video-interviews has been available on our Mediacenter at www.labiennale.org.

The 55th International Art Exhibition is carried out thanks to Swatch, partner of the exhibition, Enel , Japan Tobacco InternationalFoscariniVela-Hello VeneziaillycaffèFerrovie dello Stato Italiane and Gi Group.

Thanks to Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.

Our thanks to the Ministry of Culture, which at a difficult time for public finances has maintained its decisive support, the local institutions that in various ways support la Biennale, the City of Venice and the Regione del Veneto. We extend our thanks to the authorities that are in various ways involved and concerned with the buildings where the Exhibition is held, from the Marina Militare to the Venice Soprintendenze. Thanks to Massimiliano Gioni's team and the Biennale's staff for making the Exhibition possible. We would also like to thank our donors, who have been particularly important in the realization of the 55th Exhibition.