Christine Macel Selected to Direct 57th Venice Biennale
Apr 14, 2016
Back on April 9th of 1893, the Venice City Council voted in favor of a resolution to hold an art show. At first it was only going to include Italian artists, but after some debate the council decided to invite a select group of artists from other countries as well. When the show opened two years later, on April 30, 1895, it was given the name “I Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia,” or the first International Art Exhibition of the City of Venice. The show drew 224,000 visitors. Afterward, the city council decided to hold a similar exhibition every other year, or biennially. And aside from five times when the show was cancelled due to war or civil unrest, they’ve done just that. Since those humble beginnings, the Venice Biennial art exhibition has become the most prominent and influential international art exhibition in the world, spawning biennials around the globe. In 2015, the 56th Venice Biennale art exhibition attracted more than half a million visitors.
The Early Days
The Venice City Council kept control over the biennale until 1930, when they passed control of the show over to the government, which was then led by the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. Beginning in 1962, the exhibition began assigning an artistic director to be in charge of curating the visual elements of the show. Since then, several directors have been chosen multiple times. Of the Venice Biennale’s 24 artistic directors, only four have been women. The first time a woman was chosen to direct the Venice Biennale was in 2005. In fact, that year two women were chosen to co-direct the exhibition. Maria de Corral and Rosa Martînez, both from Spain, took on the job, curating dual exhibitions. Maria de Corral’s show was called “The Experience of Art.” Rosa Martinez’s show was called “Always a Little Further” and was held at the Arsenale venue.
Venice Biennale 2015
In 2011, Beatrice “Bice” Curiger, a Swiss curator and art historian, was chosen as Director of the 54th Venice Biennale, becoming the third woman to be selected for the position. Curiger called her exhibition “ILLUMInations.” Curiger explained her process as attempting to “shed light on the institution itself, drawing attention to dormant and unrecognized opportunities, as well as to conventions that need to be challenged.”
Curating 84 visual artists into her exhibition, Curiger posed to each of them the following five questions: 1) Where do you feel at Home? 2) Does the future speak English or another language? 3) Is the artistic community a nation? 4) How many nations do you feel inside yourself? 5) If art was a nation what would be written in its constitution?
Venice Biennale 2015
Preparing for 2017
On 22 January of this year, the Board selected the Director of the 57th La Biennale di Venezia, which will run from 13 May to 26 November, 2017. The Board selected Christine Macel, who currently works at the Centre Pompidou in Paris as the Chief Curator at the Musée National d’Art Moderne. Prior to working at the Pompidou, Macel was employed by the French Ministry of Culture as a curator for the “Délégation aux Arts Plastiques.”
With her selection, Macel becomes the fourth woman selected as the Director of the Venice Biennale. In the past 7 Biennale’s there have been 8 Artistic Directors. Half have been female. While citing their reasons for selecting Macel as the 2017 Director, they referenced the widely expressed opinion that the 2015 Biennale was centered on divisiveness and anxiety. According to a statement from Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale, Macel is focused more on “the important role artists play in inventing their own universes and injecting generous vitality into the world we live in.”
5 Facts About the Venice Biennale
*The exhibition has been cancelled five times in its history: 1916 and 1918, because of World War I; 1944 and 1946, because of World War II; 1974, because of civil unrest surrounding the election of President Carlo Ripa di Meana.
*The 1964 Venice Biennale is considered to have been responsible for legitimizing Pop Art to the world of art history by awarding Robert Rauschenberg with its top prize that year.
*Student’s protests in 1968 eventually led to the (temporary) elimination of the sales office, which they despised for its “commercialization of art.”
*There was a three-year pause taken before the 1993 Biennale so that the 1995 Biennale would line up with the event’s 100-year anniversary.
*The entire 1974 Biennale was dedicated to exhibitions surrounding the protest of General Pinochet, the dictatorial ruler of Chile.
Featured Image: Christine Macel