Venice Biennale 2024: Our Insider Guide

Words by
Candice Tucker

18th April 2024

The Venice Biennale is one of the art world’s greatest events, but with its enormous size and the city bursting with attractions, it can feel overwhelming not knowing exactly what’s worth seeing during your time there. With the Biennale kicking off on Saturday 21st April, we’ve compiled a list of top attractions to visit both in and outside the Venice Biennale this year.

John Akomfrah’s British Pavilion Exhibition

The British Pavilion has commissioned artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah RA to represent Great Britain at the 60th Edition of the Venice Biennale. Akomfrah has focused the Pavilion on urgent issues of contemporary life all around the world, through the central theme of listening.

John Akomfrah- outside a large building with pillars and a staircase to the main door and red, white and black graffiti style painting hung on the exterior
John Akomfrah’s curated British Pavilion

Through his work, Listening All Night To The Rain, Akomfrah embarks on an exploration of themes that have defined his artistic career over the last four decades. From the probing depths of memory to shedding light on pressing issues like migration, racial inequality, and climate change, Akomfrah brings forth a renewed vigour, placing emphasis on the profound act of listening and the intricacies of sound.

John Akomfrah - blue screens in a room with a blue lit up table in the middle of a dark room
Interior installation of ‘Listening All Night To The Rain’, within the British Pavilion

Visitors can expect an interlocking, multi-media installation that builds as they journey through the pavilion space. 

Memo Akten: Boundaries

The Vanhaerents Art Collection have a major presentation by Memo Akten, entitled, Boundaries at the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione.

Curated by Walter Vanhaerents, one of Belgium’s most significant art collectors, with the assistance of Dominique Moulon, Boundaries is a digital animation accompanied by a unique soundscape, crafted using generative artificial intelligence and custom coding. Evident from its title, the show delves into the concept of boundaries, viewing them not merely as barriers but as porous intersections that facilitate connection.

Walter Vanhaearents- a church lit up in red with a flower animation hanging at the alter and people watching
Memo Akten’s ‘Boundaries’, curated by Walter Vanhaerents and Dominique Moulon

‘Boundaries’ holds profound significance to artist, Memo Akten, having witnessed first-hand the societal polarisation in Turkey and current political divides in the UK, following Brexit and United States. Through this work, Akten challenges narratives of division, advocating for dialogue and symbiosis between diverse perspectives.

Walter Vanhaearents- a church lit up in white light with an animation of space hanging at the alter and people watching
Installation view from inside the Santa Maria della Vititazione

Especially created for this exhibition, ‘Boundaries’ engages with Venice’s cultural heritage. Set in the Santa Maria della Visitazione, Akten’s work with its continuous upward motion of pictorial motifs, set in radiant tones, evokes associations with Titian’s The Assumption of the Virgin. The show also delivers subtle nods to the minor arts and displaced communities that have been living at the heart of the city for centuries, in particular Venice’s Jewish communities, paying homage to the city’s diverse history and creative spirit.

The Opening of the new Vincenzo de Cotiis Foundation

Coinciding with the opening of the Venice Biennale, is artist/architect Vincenzo de Cotiis’ hard launch of his new foundation in Venice. The foundation is dedicated to advancing the understanding and appreciation of contemporary art and design, through exhibitions, public art installations and publications.

Vincenzo de Cotiis - a marble patterned arch in a room
Installation of Archaeology of Consciousness by Vincenzo de Cotiis

Now available to view at the Foundation is De Cotiis’ own work, “Archaeology Of Consciousness” which brings together Venice’s heritage with modern art. The three arches feature hand-painted recycled fiberglass, ancient Rhodonite stone, and Murano glass.

Hans Ulrich Obrist’s curated performance at Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo private Island

Eun-Me Ahn, who has been trained in traditional Korean dance and shamanic practices will be presenting a performance on the island of San Giacomo during the Venice Biennale. Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, the performance presents mixed languages, concepts and rituals.

Eun-Me Ahn - sitting on a rainbow background wearing platform heels and a black dress with pink paint all over her
Performance artist, Eun-Me Ahn

The island of San Giacomo has been in the process of being revived since 2022. Italian art collector, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, has now turned the abandoned island into a cultural centre for art , music cinema and culture, with a particular focus on environmental education.

Denmark’s Pavilion: ‘Rise of the Sunken Sun’

With over 200 works, this photography exhibition by Inuuteq Storch aims "to tell the Greenlanders' visual history, not seen through the visitors' eyes, but through the Greenlanders' own,” explains the artist. Curated by Louise Wolthers, this is the first time the Danish Pavilion has showcased a major exhibition by an artist from Greenland.

Inuuteq Storch - Two people standing on planks of ice with a camera on the sea
‘Soon Will Summer Be Over’, series 2023, by Inuuteq Storch

Storch intertwines archival and familial photographs with modern depictions of Greenland's daily existence, exploring the intricate interplay between individuals and their environment. In accordance with the curatorial motif of Biennale Arte, 'Foreigners Everywhere,' Storch's showcase evokes profound contemplation on the outsider experience and the timeless pursuit of belonging.

Sol Calero’s Outdoor Pavilion

Invited especially by the Venice Biennale curator of ‘Foreigner’s Everywhere’, Sol Calero has designed an outdoor pavilion in the Giardini, situated among the 30 permanent national pavilions. The piece is inspired by Calero’s exploration of Latin American art, social spaces and tropical themes that she has studied over the last decade.

Sol Calero - A colourful house with open sides in a desert
Sol Calero’s Casa Anacaona, Folkestone, 2017

The construction itself has been built using materials from Pavilions at past Biennales. This not only brings attention to sustainability but also highlights the exchanges embedded within these materials, reflecting the Biennale's spirit of international dialogue and collaboration.

The Venice Biennale is open until Sunday 24 November 2024