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5 Must-see exhibitions at this year's Venice Biennale


10th Apr 2024 Art & Theatre

4 min read

5 Must-see exhibitions at this year's Venice Biennale
From exploring the way that breasts have been represented throughout art history to creating spaces for collective liberation, these are our most anticipated exhibitions at the 60th Venice Biennale
One of the biggest events in the art calendar, the 60th La Biennale di Venezia is nearly upon us! An international cultural exhibition hosted annually in Venice by the Biennale Foundation, the Venice Biennale showcases art from around the world in an array of breathtaking venues, including Venetian Gothic palaces and deconsecrated churches.
This year promises to be full of art and wonder—here are five exhibitions that look particularly alluring!

Beati Pacifici: The Disasters of War and the Hope for International Peace, Chiesa di San Samuele, April 16–September 29

Curated by W Bruce C Bailey, Beati Pacifici will bring together over 200 works by artists such as Jacques Callot, Francisco Goya, Otto Dix and Marlene Dumas, assembling an anti-heroic history of Western war art. Taken from the Bailey collection, the works will date from the 17th century up to the present day, offering a testament to art’s power to witness and capture the horrors of war.
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828), 1st edition, Plate 19 "Ya no hay tiempo" ("There's no more time"), from Los Desastres de la Guerra ("The Disasters of War"), 1810–1820, printed in 1863
Alongside these artworks, New Yorker art critic Jackson Arn has written an essay for the catalogue and Margaret Atwood has written a poem titled “The Disasters of War: A Sequel”. Full of big names, this promises to be a moving exhibition that turns a brutally honest eye on the reality of conflict—crucial, perhaps, at a time when there is so much of it in the world.

Musei delle Lacrime (Museums of Tears), Museo Correr, April 17–November 24

Born in 1971 in Brescia, Italy, Francesco Vezzoli is one of the most successful Italian artists in the world. His work uses video installations, embroidery, photography, live performances and now classical sculpture to explore contemporary culture.
"Musei della Lacrime will confront the ideology of museum as an assertion of power"
This Venice Biennale is not his first rodeo: his works were selected at the 49th, 51st and 52nd art editions, as well as the 2014 Architecture Bienniale. This year will see his work presented at Museo Correr in St Mark’s Square, Venice, where it will confront the ideology of museum as an assertion of power.
Nearly 30 years ago, Vezzoli began embroidering tears onto images of masterpieces. Musei Delle Lacrime will present historical works with newly-created pieces, and marks a historic moment for the Venice International Foundation as it is the first time an artist has been invited to reimagine a venerated space in Venice, the Museo Correr. 

Breasts, ACP Palazzo Franchetti, April 18–November 24

The female form has long been explored in art (not without controversy), but Breasts really hones in on, as you may have guessed from the name, breasts, exploring how they have been represented in art from 1500 to the modern day. 
"The exhibition reflects on themes including motherhood, sexuality and illness"
What results is five rooms’ worth of painting, sculpture, photography and film, curated by Carolina Pasti, reflecting on themes including motherhood, sexuality and illness. The exhibition investigates how breasts can be used as metaphors for wider socio-political realities and as expressions of personal identity, as well as promoting awareness of breast cancer.
Marcel Duchamp, Prière de toucher (Please Touch), 1947
Artworks include a mixed-media piece by Marcel Duchamp titled Prière de toucher (Please Touch), which presents a foam rubber breast fixed to the cover of the book, Le Surréalisme en 1947, Robert Mapplethorpe’s Surrealist photography and a film by Laure Prouvost called Four For See Beauties which recalls the stages of human life transformation.

Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust, Chiesetta della Misericordia, April 20–November 24

Contemporary artist Yu Hong’s first major European exhibition, Yu Hong: Another One Bites the Dust, will feature figurative and narrative paintings that respond to the Chiesetta della Misericordia, a deconsecrated Romanesque-Byzantine church founded in the tenth century by Augustinian friars. 
Yu Hong, Walking through Life, 2019–22, acrylyic on canvas. © Yu Hon. Courtesy Lisson Gallery
Yu Hong’s paintings depict the human experience from birth to death, showing contorted bodies—women wrapped in cling-film, child acrobats in circus acts—that explore restrictions imposed by political realities and cultural norms. Yu Hong is described as a “voracious appropriator of world art” and her work draws from Buddhist narrative painting, Byzantine icons and the Italian Baroque.
"Yu Hong's work draws from Buddhist narrative painting, Byzantine icons and the Italian Baroque"
Moulding the exhibition to the exhibition space, Yu Hong has created a work to fit the architectural dimensions of the Chiesetta Della Misericordia’s Baroque altar, staging seven human events in a single composition that is both desperate and miraculous. Yu Hong comments, “Everyone seeks some form of salvation, and I believe it should arise not only from divine sources but also from within ourselves.”

Greenhouse, Palazzo Franchetti, April 20–November 24

A collective project by artist-curators Mónica de Miranda, Sónia Vaz Borges and Vånia Gala, Greenhouse will represent Portugal at the 60th Biennale di Venezia. Using plants that are native to African countries, the artists will create a “Creole garden” in Palazzo Franchetti, a Venetian Gothic palace first erected in the 16th century. The “Creole garden” is a reference to private plots that were tended by enslaved people as acts of resistance and survival in plantations. 
Mónica de Miranda, Greenhouse, 2024, inkjet print on cotton paper. © Mónica de Miranda, Courtesy of the artist
The exhibition connects ideas of ecology, decolonisation, diaspora and migration through a richly biodiverse space created in collaboration by artists from different backgrounds (visual art, history and choreography). Alongside the plants, the garden will also stage sound installation sculptures, workshops and participatory events, creating a transdisciplinary space for participation and solidarity. 
Greenhouse also marks two important anniversaries: the centenary of Amílcar Cabral (1924–73), a Bissau-Guinean anticolonial leader and agronomist who was vital to Bissau-Guinea’s independence from Portugal in 1973; and the 50th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution which deposed Portugal’s dictatorship in April 1974. 
For more information about the 60th La Biennale di Venezia, visit labiennale.org/en
Cover image: Mónica de Miranda, Creole Garden, 2024, inkjet print on cotton paper © Mónica de Miranda, Courtesy of the artist
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