Venice Biennale Is Filling the City With Stunning Art Through November — Here's What to See

After a pandemic pause, the 59th Biennale di Arte is in full swing and runs until Nov. 27, 2022.

Times Reimagined by Chun Kwang Young at Palazzo Contarini Polignac at the 59th Venice Art Biennale
Photo: Alice Clancy/Courtesy of CKY Studio

It took 879 days for the Venice's Biennale di Arte to return. In other words, art purgatory. Since its 1895 debut, Venice has feted the world every two years (the odd-numbered years) with a six-month-long contemporary art fest. Thanks to a pandemic pause, the programmed 2021 Biennale was taken off the calendar, interrupting a long-standing tradition.

But in April 2022, the Biennale returned. To be honest, I was a little nervous when I arrived at Stazione Santa Lucia to attend the Biennale press preview. I've been a Biennale habituèe since 1999. Over two decades, I've watched the Biennale evolve from a charming art opening to a solar system of art events across the magnificent floating city where the Who's Who of art, fashion, and finance flex the latest styles.

In Piazza San Marco is Anselm Keifer's installation at the Palazzo Ducale at the 59th Venice Art Biennale
Courtesy of Erica Firpo

It didn't take long for my fears to evaporate. As I got off the train, impeccably fashion-forward travelers were greeted by stewards holding up signs with the words "Chanel" and "Valentino." I thought I caught a glimpse of an artist I knew and definitely bumped into Giovanna Melandri, President of MAXXI, Rome's gorgeous Zaha Hadid-designed contemporary art museum. Just five minutes after I posted my first "Baby I'm Back" selfie, my hairdresser messaged me to meet at the Bauer Hotel, where she was coiffing Chanel VIPs. And as I headed over to grab a spritz with her, it hit me: The Biennale was back in full force.

The Venice Biennale is more than just an art show — it's a celebration. Art is everywhere; in palazzi, in museums, in shops, in gardens, and on boats. Here's what you need to know about visiting the city-wide event this year, which runs until Nov. 27, 2022.

Re-enchanting the World by Małgorzata Mirga-Tas at the Polish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Art Biennale
Daniel Rumiancew/Courtesy of Polish Pavilion
Paradise Camp by Yuki Kihara at the New Zealand Pavilion at the 59th Venice Art Biennale
Courtesy of New Zealand Pavilion

The official Biennale di Arte occupies two areas of Venice: the Giardini, a vast green space in the city's Castello neighborhood that's played host to the Biennale since its inception, and the Arsenale, a centuries-old shipyard hosting myriad national pavilions filled with artwork and this year's flagship exhibition.

The theme this year is "Il Latte dei Sogni" ("The Milk of Dreams"), a massive multi-artist exhibition and visual, fantastical journey curated by Cecilia Alemani and located in the Giardini's central pavilion and the Arsenale's Corderie. This year, the headlining exhibit features 90% female artists from more than 100 countries. Each piece within the expansive exhibit, which launched on the first day of the festival in April, has a different vibe — illustrating a rainbow of emotions from anxiety and anger to joy and nostalgia.

I spent two full days at the Giardini and Arsenale. Down time meant wandering the Collateral Events (external exhibitions organized by galleries and institutions like Palazzo Grassi, Fondazione Prada, and Venice's museum network MuVE). I queued lines with artists, photographers, journalists, collectors, and the entire curation team from Denmark's Trapholt museum. I ventured to Piazza San Marco to see four monumental floor-to-ceiling paintings by Anselm Keifer and onto the gorgeous Isola di San Giorgio.

Artists Eva & Adele walking through the 59th Venice Art Biennale
Courtesy of Erica Firpo
Visitors view "Elephant, 1987" by German artist Katarina Fritsch in the Central Pavilion for The Milk of Dreams at the 59th Venice Art Biennale
VINCENZO PINTO/Getty Images

How much time should visitors dedicate to the Biennale? The answer is simple: as much time as you like. Realistically, you can visit the Giardini and Arsenale over the course of one day, but I personally prefer splitting the visits over two days. Conveniently, a single-entry ticket to the Biennale gives access both to the Giardini area and the Arsenale, but each site can be visited on different and non-consecutive days.

Be on the look out for the following art exhibits when you visit the Biennale this year.

At the Giardini

Re-enchanting the World by Małgorzata Mirga-Tas at the Polish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Art Biennale
Daniel Rumiancew/Courtesy of Polish Pavilion
  • At the Great Britain pavilion: "Feeling Her Way," by Sonia Boyce
  • At the United States pavilion: "Sovereignty," by Simone Leigh
  • At the Poland pavilion: "Re-enchanting the World," by Małgorzata Mirga-Tas
  • At the Greece pavilion: "Oedipus In Search of Colonus," a VR experience by Loukia Alavanou
  • At the France pavilion: "Dreams Have No Titles," by Zineb Sedira
  • Central Pavilion for "The Milk of Dreams"

At the Arsenale

Wu Tsang: Of Whales at the 59th Venice Art Biennale
Courtesy of Matteo De Fina, supported by VIVE Arts
  • "Of Whales," a large outdoor video by Wu Tsang
  • At the Italy pavilion: "Storia della Notte e Destino delle Comete," by Gian Maria Tosatti
  • Malta: Arcangelo Sassolino, Giuseppe Schembri Bonaci, Brian Schembri
  • At the New Zealand pavilion: "Paradise Camp," by Yuki Kihara
  • At the Ukraine pavilion: "Fountain of Exhaustion," by Pavlo Makov
  • At the Corderie: Take a gorgeous walk from Golden Lion winner Simone Leigh's colossal bronze sculpture to Precious Okoyomon's installation of "To See the Earth Before the End of the World." Be on the look out for Sandra Mujinga's "Sentinels of Change" and Delcy Morelos' "Earthly Paradise."
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