The Venice Biennale is the longest-running and most high-profile international exhibition of contemporary art in the world. Each Venice Biennale comprises a lavish extravaganza of exhibitions that draw over 600,000 visitors during the Biennale’s six-month (May – November) run. Its national pavilions and collateral events generate a fascinating array of exhibition-related publications and objects.
In 2007, the Clark library began to build on its comprehensive collection of Biennale-related literature by collecting a rich variety of publications and ephemera that were not being archived anywhere else, electronic as well as physical objects, many of them artist-designed. The physical collection is housed in the library’s Special Collections and these materials can be searched in the online catalog and viewed upon request.
Venice Biennale material that has been digitized or is available in electronic format falls into three distinct collections.
The Clark’s Venice Biennale Ephemera Collection represents the wide variety of publications and objects that are distributed during the week when curators, artists, collectors, publishers, dealers, and the press are invited to preview the exhibitions and pavilions. Catalogs, press kits, and endlessly inventive artist-designed “swag” are given away. Since 2007, the Clark library has worked closely with Thomas Heneage, London art-book dealer, who collects materials to be added to the Clark’s unique collection.
The map below was created by Emily Jacir when her proposed project for the 2009 Biennale, to print the names of all the vaporetto stops along a key route through Venice in both Arabic and Italian, was shut down with no explanation. The map delineates the stops, a guide to a work of art that never existed.
Hüseyin Alptekin's work deals with issues of displacement by bringing attention to "unimportant" facts and actions that often go unnoticed. This sketch, for the exhibition Don't Complain (2007), is for a work in which the artist rebuilt five Finnish log-barns in a shape that was "the result of a revisitation of a mental-setting the artist experienced in Tblisi, Georgia. This comes out of a particular type of public dining where restaurants are strictly divided into separate cabins clustered around an open courtyard."
For the 2009 Biennale, artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset created for the Nordic and Danish Pavilions The Collectors, two fictional worlds located in adjacent buildings: one an upscale family home that was "for sale" (complete with performers acting as real-estate agents) and the other a bachelor pad where young men lounged, sipping drinks. Many artists and designers contributed editioned artworks such as the paper placemat below, by Simon Fujiwara, titled "Scribbles, Dribbles, Nibbles."
Fernando Prats' Grand Sur project for the Chilean Pavilion in 2011 consisted of three art pieces, one of which was an installation in neon lettering that reproduced the advertisement that explorer Ernest Shackleton is said to have posted circa 1911, calling for men for his expedition to Antarctica.
This souvenir fan accompanied Carlos Marreiros' Pato.men installation, a collateral event for the 2013 Biennale that explored the operation of information, raising questions about the co-existence of morality and the existence of circumstances in which information can be manipulated and freely published.
Maria Papadimitriou's exhibition Why Look at Animals? in 2015 for the Greek Pavilion sought to underscore human beings' anthropocentric worldview by highlighting the way in which certain animals, such as wolves, coexist with people but cannot be domesticated by them. This relationship functioned as an allegory of the dispossessed during a time when Greek society faced economic challenges and issues related to immigration and migration.
In his 2015 exhibition, The Question of Beings, Yahon Chang explored the conscious and subconscious natures of individuals, questioning the diversity and complexity of living beings in an effort to delve into the similarities and differences between the recesses of human and animal instinct. The two images below are the front and back of a bag that was given away.
Doug Fishbone’s Leisure Land Golf (2015) was a fully operational mini golf course for which nine artists were each commissioned to design a hole. Asked to respond to “The Leisure Principle” (whereby consumer satisfaction is prioritized above anything else), the artists approached the prompt from varied perspectives which, despite the humorous and light-hearted setting, dealt with serious political and social questions.
The Absence of Paths (Tunisia National Pavilion, 2017) was designed as "a human performance staged across Venice which, for the duration of the Biennial, represents an idyllic microcosm of the world: a place where human beings may still flow freely from one nation to the next....This installation will empower each and every visitor towards shedding the divisive baggage and classifications imposed upon people. The carefully developed collateral event, at the heart of the pavilion, will form the basis of a silent, individual protest."
The Venice Biennale Collection on the Web captures blogs, social media sites, video, and organizational websites that document and publicize artists and pavilions at the Biennale. Clark librarians first obtain permission from their creators and then use Archive-It and Webrecorder to capture online exhibition catalogs, press kits, audio and video, and other digital ephemera. To view, click the webrecorder or archive-it link at the top of the record.
Venice Biennale 2017, South Africa National Participation. Candice Breitz and Mohau Modisakeng (Instagram).
Venice Biennale 2013, Lithuania National Participation. Gintaras Didžiapetris, Elena Narbutaite, Liudvikas Buklys, Kazys Varnelis, Vytaute Žilinskaite, Morten Norbye Halvorsen, Jason Dodge, Gabriel Lester, Dexter Sinister: oO (website).
Venice Biennale 2015, Kenya National Participation. Petition on change.org: Renounce Kenya's fraudulent Representation at the 56th Venice Biennial 2015 & commit to support the realisation of a national pavilion in 2017 (website).
Gathered from CDs, flash drives, and websites, the digital materials archived in the E-Biennale collection include press kits, photographs, exhibition catalogs, and audio and video clips. For copyright reasons, access to this collection is restricted to the Clark campus; like the physical collection, visitors are welcome to come to the library to search and view a rich variety of materials.
View/search the library catalog list of Biennale-related titles.
View/search the Venice Biennale Ephemera Collection.
View/search the Venice Biennale on the Web.
Explore a cornucopia of images from the Venice Biennale collection posted on Pinterest.
Venice Biennale 2017, Ireland National Participation. Jesse Jones in Tremble Tremble (Instagram).
Venice Biennale 2017, Pavilion of Mongolia. Lost in Tngri (announcement).
Venice Biennale 2017, Diaspora Pavilion (pin).
Venice Biennale 2017, Lithuania National Participation (beer).
Venice Biennale 2011, Dutch Pavilion. Opera aperta : loose work : publication in three parts (popup book).
Venice Biennale 2013, Bahamas Pavilion. Tavares Strachan (LP).
Venice Biennale 2013, British Pavilion. Jeremy Deller: English Magic (book cover).
Venice Biennale 2015, Artist intervention. #ONVACATION (bag).
Venice Biennale 2017, Iceland National Participation. Out of controll in Venice (LP).
Venice Biennale 2015, Australian Pavilion. Fiona Hall: Endings are the New Beginnings (card).
Venice Biennale 2013, Russian Pavilion. Vadim Zakharov: Danaë (souvenir coin).
Venice Biennale 2015, Australia Pavilion. Fiona Hall: Wrong Way Time (necklace).
Venice Biennale 2015, Estonian Pavilion. Jaanus Samma: Criminal Case No. 6 (cover).
Venice Biennale 2017, NSK State Pavilion. (NSK passport).
Venice Biennale 2015, Pavilion of South Africa. What remains is tomorrow (bag).
Venice Biennale 2017, Iceland National Participation. Out of Controll (Ūgh & Bõögâr perfume bottle and box).
Venice Biennale 2015, Turkey National Participation. Sarkis: Respiro (website).
Venice Biennale 2013, Bahamas National Participation. Tavares Strachan: Polar eclipse (website).
Venice Biennale 2015, Collateral event. Sunscreen (website). Image is from Watermelon by Abi Hubbard.
Venice Biennale 2017, Performance. Antoni Miralda, Joan Rabascall, Dorothée Selz: Edible performance (dyed bread).
Venice Biennale 2009, Danish and Nordic Pavilions. Jonathan Monk: Someone Else with my Finger Prints (badge).
Venice Biennale 2015, Duddell's Pop Up at Palazzo Morosini. Zheng Guogu and Yangjiang Group: The Writings of Today are a Promise for Tomorrow (postcard).
Venice Biennale 2017, Pavilion of Korea. Cody Choi & Lee Wan: Counterbalance : the stone and the mountain (press kit, USB drive in the shape of a poker chip).
Venice Biennale 2017, BlindWiki Collateral Event. #UnveilingTheUnseen (Instagram).
Venice Biennale 2017, Zuecca Projects. Lola Schnable: Fluttuazioni held at Palazzo Marin (website).
Venice Biennale 2013, Collateral event. Bashir Makhoul and Aissa Deebi: Otherwise Occupied (website).
Venice Biennale 2013, Collateral event. Culture‧Mind‧Becoming (website).
Venice Biennale 2015, Collateral event. In the Eye of the Thunderstorm: Effervescent Practices from the Arab World & South Asia (website).
Venice Biennale 2015. This is just a bag, not a piece of art : My Biennale Guide (tote bag).
Venice Biennale 2011, French Pavilion. Christian Boltanski: Chance (press kit).
Venice Biennale 2017, Zuecca Projects. Marina Abramović : The kitchen (website).
Venice Biennale 2015, Croatia National Participation. Damir Očko: Studies on Shivering : The Third Degree (website).
Venice Biennale 2017, Collateral event. Scotland + Venice (twitter feed).
Venice Biennale 2009, Danish and Nordic Pavilions. Clémentine Deliss: Between object and organ : powerless collections (booklet with paper dress-up doll).
Venice Biennale 2011, Mexican Pavilion. Guzik, Arielz: Cordiox logo (sticker).