The Clark’s Venice Biennale Collection

Maureen Mooren (Dutch; b. Dordrecht, 1969), pop-up maquette from Loose Work, Dutch Pavilion of the 54th Venice Biennale, 2011. 9 1/2 × 13 in. Clark Art Institute Library, Venice Biennale Ephemera Collection

As the Venice Biennale has grown into a connected series of exhibitions that fills the city with contemporary art, it has been difficult for libraries to acquire the catalogues and other materials that document the event. This has been especially true with artists’ books—a genre in which the Clark library has a particularly keen interest. Often, these publications are available only in Venice during the course of the exhibition. Many libraries, including the Clark’s, have struggled to obtain this material.

Since 2007, however, the Clark’s library has built an unparalleled collection of editioned works of art, books, posters, publicity materials, and other objects produced for the Venice Biennale. London rare-book dealer Thomas Heneage attends the Biennale’s opening-week previews and gathers hundreds of objects on the Clark’s behalf. In recent years this has been complemented by a concentrated effort by the Clark’s librarians to acquire digital materials made available during the Biennale.

These ephemeral remnants, generally neglected once the event is over, tell a story about the Biennale; they are, in effect, vital records of the contemporary art world.

Art’s Biggest Stage showcases this growing archive and explores the questions of identity, nationhood, and spectacle central to the Biennale.