About the Exhibition

Edson Chagas (Angolan; b. Luanda, 1977), poster from the series Found Not Taken, from Luanda, Encyclopedic City, Angolan Pavilion of the 55th Venice Biennale, 2013. 19 × 27 in. Clark Art Institute Library, Venice Biennale Ephemera Collection

The Venice Biennale is a cross-continental survey of contemporary art and the social issues it engages. Since 2007, the Clark’s library has built an unparalleled collection of editioned works of art, books, posters, publicity materials, and other objects produced for the recurring extravaganza. Art’s Biggest Stage: Collecting the Venice Biennale, 2007–2019 showcases this growing archive and explores the questions of identity, nationhood, and spectacle central to the Biennale.

The exhibition offers insights into a decade when contemporary art has received increasing attention in mainstream culture, the art world’s geographic reach has expanded beyond Western capitals, and technology has reshaped how such events are encountered, both in person and online. The Venice Biennale, inaugurated in 1895, was the first recurring exhibition of the type we now call a “biennial.” The event has grown since its introduction, and today it is composed of the artistic director’s exhibition, more than eighty national pavilions, and dozens of “collateral events.” There are now more than three hundred biennials around the world, but Venice retains its primacy, and the Clark’s library archive documents both its development and the trends made visible by its artists’ projects.

The Clark’s summer 2019 exhibitions and programs are made possible in part by generous support from Denise Littlefield Sobel. Support for Art's Biggest Stage: Collecting the Venice Biennale, 2007–2019 is provided by Maureen Fennessy Bousa and Edward P. Bousa and Amy and Charlie Scharf, with additional support from the Rohit and Katharine Desai Family Foundation.