Highlights, and the High Life of the 2017 Venice Biennale

June 1, 2017

The 57th Venice Biennale is underway! We were lucky enough to be there for the opening weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed spending time strolling through the city and checking out the shows. If you’ve been to Venice before, you will already have an idea of what you want to see, and if you haven’t yet been, it will be all new—lucky you! If you’re headed there before November 26, 2017, you’ll be able to see some of the coolest art exhibits of the year, displayed in their perfect natural habitat. The Venice Biennale has long been considered the world leader in contemporary, cutting-edge art exhibitions, and this year’s show doesn’t disappoint. Remember to plan your trip carefully—it’s not possible to see all that Venice has to offer in one trip. Here’s our guide to shows and museums you should check out while you’re there!

Palazzo Grassi & Punta della Dogana

Damien Hirst

See. This. Exhibition. I hate to give anything away, but “Treasures” will be talked about for a long time to come. The sheer monumentality of the work, the artist’s scope of vision, and the knowing hubris it took to create this collection is truly astounding. Hirst demonstrates a mastery of many mediums, and plays on how a viewer values a work based on its provenance. The subtitle of the exhibition is “Somewhere between lies and truth lies the truth,” a concept you’ll be contemplating long after you wander to another exhibit. Whether you love or hate Hirst and the artwork he creates, you must concede that his exhibit is as impressive as it is polemic.

Abbazia di San Gregorio

Jan Fabre

This hauntingly beautiful retrospective comprising 40 years’ worth of Fabre’s work is a must-see. His use of material (glass and bone of course) gives a nod to the mastery of Venetian glassblowers while also acknowledging the frailty of humanity. Each work invites closer inspection, sparking awe at the material or the technique used. But make sure to step back, too—whether viewed close-up or from afar, this show is breathtaking.

Palazzo Franchetti

This exhibit succeeds in its aim to make the viewer rethink glass as art … and in a city where there should be no doubt! The impressive locale blends gorgeously with the many thought-provoking and varied works from more than 30 artists. This collaborative show is expertly curated to display glass and glassmakers at their very finest. Explore each room in the palazzo with relish and wonder.

To get an overview of the historical art and architecture Venice has to offer, first-time visitors should make sure to check out Piazza San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale, the Museo Correr, and Ca’ Pesaro. Also, no matter how often you’re in Venice, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection should always be on the itinerary. On display until September 10, 2017, Mark Tobey’s “Threading Light” special exhibition is as much of a gem as the Guggenheim’s permanent collection. Also worth checking out is Shirin Neshat’s “The Home of My Eyes,” a photography exhibit at the Museo Correr, on display until November 26, 2017.

The Golden Tower, James Lee Byars and Extraterrestrial Odyssey, Lina Condes

Another fun part of wandering around Venice right now is finding all of the monumental public works that are free to see. Here are a few to look out for:
Extraterrestrial Odyssey, Lina Condes 
Palazzo Pisani 
Support Venice, Lorenzo Quinn
Ca’ Sagredo Hotel
The Golden Tower, James Lee Byars
Campo San Vio

Perhaps the most surprising thing about all of these works and exhibits in Venice is how well they blend with or enhance the sheer beauty of Venice. If each of the works were put in a different environment, you’d see and experience them quite differently. The city is its own masterpiece, and probably the most important one of all.

Support Venice, Lorenzo Quinn

What were your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

Learn more about these exhibits here:

All photos credit: Anna Baumann