The Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale is one of the most prestigious cultural events in the world. Its long history began in 1895, when the first International Art Exhibition was organized. In the years that followed, La Biennale constantly expanded its content to include Music, Cinema, Theatre, Architecture and Dance.

The First exhibition was designed to be a "national artistic exhibition" for the celebration of the silver anniversary of King Umberto and Margherita of Savoy, but after 2 years of planning and organizing it became the great international exhibition. There were over 200 000 visitors at the first exhibition. Later on, the event got the name of the 'Biennale' because it took place every two years. The exhibition was organized not only to invite major foreign and Italian artists, but to include also uninvited Italian painters and sculptors.
For the second Biennale, in 1897, alongside the official major Prize, the jury created a Critic's Prize, which promoted the event and improved the quality of Italian art criticism in that period.
In 1903, for the 5th Biennale some new ideas were adopted: the inclusion of decorative arts, such as furnishing and the opening of the Salon des Réfusées, which held unselected works.
From 1907 the building began of the foreign pavilions, in order for other countries to host their own national work during the Biennale exhibition. The first was Belgium pavilion, followed then by the British, German, Hungarian, French, Swedish, Dutch, Russian, and so on. The Giardini area, where the pavilions are located currently hosts 29 of them. Countries that do not have their own Pavilion in the Giardini are exhibited in other venues across Venice.
In the period between the 1920s and 1930s the Biennale established its Archive under the name of the Historical Institute of Contemporary Art. The Biennale also began to organize exhibitions of Italian art abroad.
The 24th Biennale was considered very important for the reconsideration of the avant-garde. Contemporary art brought new trends such as Cubism, Surrealism, the works of Picasso, Dalì, Kandinsky and Mirò..
The 1964 edition announced the arrival of Pop Art in Europe.
The 1968 protests had a strong influence on the 35th edition, and many artists either covered up their works or turned them over. The Grand Prizes were abolished.
The prizes were finally brought back to the Biennale in 1986.
The 52nd Biennale was held in 2007 and was one of the most visited in the history of the exhibition.

The International Festival of Contemporary Music, which is a part of the Venice Biennale, was established in 1930. It was the second festival to be created by this organization. Since 1930 the Festival has featured new compositions, European and world premieres, famous ensembles and soloists.

The year of 1934 saw the birth of the Venice Biennale's International Theatre Festival. The idea was to present classic works that spoke about Venice. One of the first performances was Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.
Since the second festival, the event has been held annually.
At the end of 1970s the famous Theatre Carnival was established. Over the years, the Theatre Festival has explored many different topics from the experimental programs of Visionaries & Peacemakers directed by Peter Sellars, or Massimo Castri's edition dedicated to modern Italian theatre, to Goldoni and the exploration of his work.

The first International Architecture Exhibition took place in 1980. It had 'The presence of the Past' as its theme. From its first year, until today, the Festival has not been held on regular dates, but when organized it has touched on some interesting ideas and themes. These include architecture in Islamic countries, Hendrik Petrus Berlage, projects designs for A Gateway to Venice, the Italian Pavilion and the new Bookshop Pavilion.
Many contemporary masters of architecture have taken part in the Biennale of Venice, demonstrating their interesting creativity and applicability.

The Dance section of the Venice Biennale is the youngest part of the festival - it was established in 1998. Before 1998 the dance section was a part of the Music section.
The Biennale opened the first modern and contemporary dance academy in Italy, the Accademia Isola Danza. Since its creation, it developed successfully and at its 4th year of its existence, the Accademy Isola Danza became the hot spot for dance training. 

In 2003 a new formula was adopted: the section was to be directed every year by a different artist (until then it was a four-year period appointed to Carolyn Carlson). This was also the year when the term "festival" was finally introduced for the dance section. The then director of the festival, Frédéric Flamand, named his festival Body ↔ City.

In 2004 the Festival was divided into New World and Old World parts.
The following years were focused on the body as the main theme.
In 2005 Carolyn Carlson was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement and this was the first Golden Lion ever awarded by the performing arts. Since 2006, the performing arts sections have made annual awards.

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