2021 will hopefully be a year where we can travel again safely to Venice and across the world. In 2020, several events had to be cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, there are again plenty of interesting events in Venice scheduled for 2021. There are too many to list them all in this post, so I made a selection of those that appeal most to myself and which I would like to attend. Most events run for several months or take place later in the year, so this should give us enough flexibility to visit them.
The most important celebration of 2021 is the 1600th anniversary of Venice. Other events to look forward to are the Architecture Biennale, cultural initiatives such as Homo Faber or the Venice Glass Week and several temporary exhibitions. Of course, there are also traditional events which take place every year. The only exception to this will most likely be carnival (which was planned to start on January 30), as I doubt it will take place this year.
So, what is going on in Venice in 2021?
It’s Venice – Non-Extractive Architecture – Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto studies – The Glass Ark. Animals in the Pierry Rosenberg Collection – 1600th anniversary of Venice – Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity – Festa della Sensa – Architecture Biennale – Vogalonga – Festa del Redentore – The Venice Glass Week – Regata storica – Homo Faber – Festa della Salute
1. It’s Venice
All year round
2021 is a year in which travel will gradually pick up again. Hence, when you will be able to travel to Venice, it will not be as packed as it used to be. This will therefore be the perfect year to enjoy the city itself and take time to stroll around. You will be blown away by the beauty of the canals, the streets and the palazzos, by the silence and by the wonderful people who live and work there. It might also be a good time to (re)visit some of the landmarks which are otherwise overcrowded. One example is the Royal Gardens (near Piazza San Marco) which re-opened in 2020 after a thorough restoration (more info in my post ‘Wander through the hidden gardens in Venice’). If you want to know how a quiet Venice feels like, you can read my post ‘My unforgettable visit to Venice in the COVID-19 era’.
2. Non-Extractive Architecture – V–A–C Zattere
Exhibition March 21, 2021 – January 31, 2022
Architect and curator Joseph Grima, together with design research studio Space Caviar, will curate an exhibition, research residency and conference series on the material, social, economic and environmental implications of architecture in the 21st century. The project will examine the public’s expectations of the architect and architects’ expectations of themselves. What if architects dealt primarily with integration, circularity, materiality and community? What if the materials to construct buildings were sourced locally rather than mined half a world away? This relatively new exhibition space will be a living laboratory for a new understanding of architecture and environmental design with research, residences, public programmes, publishing and broadcasting initiatives and an ever-changing exhibition. Even if you doubt whether the event appeals to you, the restored palazzo of V-A-C along Zattere is worth a visit of its own.
3. Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto studies – Punta della Dogana
Exhibition March 21, 2021 – January 9, 2022
A series of recent video installations created by the American artist Bruce Nauman in the last five years are shown against his earlier work from 1968 ‘Walk with Contrapposto’. In classical art, the term ‘contrapposto’ refers to a pose in which the standing figure slightly twists off-axis so that the upper and the lower bodies turn in opposite ways, in search of a balance. The adoption of the contrapposto revolutionised sculpture in Ancient Greece and was further developed in painting and sculpture throughout the history of art – from the Renaissance, all the way to Nauman’s contemporary experiments with moving images. The exhibition, conceived as an ascending spiralling itinerary through the spaces of Punta della Dogana, has been designed to immerse the viewers into Nauman’s explorations of performance, sound and space by presenting the works of the Contrapposto series along with earlier works across media.
4. The Glass Ark. Animals in the Pierre Rosenberg Collection – Le Stanze del Vetro
Exhibition March 22, 2021 – July 25, 2021
This exhibition will retrace the history of 20th-century Murano glass from an unusual angle: the glass animal. The Glass Ark will feature over 750 works of art – among others, elephants, hippos, cats, giraffes, bears, parrots, fish, turtles, foxes and tiny, lamp-worked life-sized insects – belonging to the personal collection of Pierre Rosenberg, art historian and former Director/President of the Louvre in Paris. His original collection includes famous series, such as the pulegosi (bubble glass) pieces by Napoleone Martinuzzi, the birds by Tyra Lundgren and by Toni Zuccheri for Venini, the zebrati (zebra-striped) by Barovier & Toso, the aquariums by Alfredo Barbini and well-known examples by Seguso Vetri d’Arte. The exhibition will also focus on the technical and design experimentation of Murano glass production. Finally, Giulia Savorani created a fairytale cartoon starting from drawings on glass for this occasion. As I love cartoons, I certainly look forward to this in Le Stanze del Vetro.
5. 1600th anniversary of Venice
Event March 25, 2021 – March 24, 2022
The official foundation date of Venice has been set on March 25, 421 at noon. Hence, on March 25, 2021, the city celebrates its 1600th anniversary. According to the legend, this was the date when the first stone was laid of the San Giacomo di Rialto church, also known as San Giacometto. The celebrations will run for an entire year, but details haven’t been communicated yet. The light show on the Rialto bridge, which is projected since early December, brings scenes of the history of Venice to life and was a teaser for the 2021 celebrations. You can read more on the history of Venice in ‘A short introduction to the complicated history of Venice’.
6. Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity – Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Exhibition (postponed until April 9, 2022 – September 26, 2022)
Surrealism was keenly inspired by magic, myth and the occult. Many surrealistic artists looked to magic as a poetic and deeply philosophical discourse, and heavily drew on esoteric symbols in their works. This cultivated the image of the artist as an alchemist, magician, and visionary. This exhibition explores the development of surrealism in international perspective, from the ‘metaphysical paintings’ of Giorgio de Chirico to the politically contentious climate of the postwar years. Amongst the many fascinating artists included in the exhibition are Victor Brauner, Leonora Carrington, Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, Maya Deren, Max Ernst, Leonor Fini, René Magritte, Maria Martins, Roberto Matta, Wolfgang Paalen, Kay Sage, Kurt Seligmann, Yves Tanguy, Dorothea Tanning, and Remedios Varo. If you want to know more about the museum before you visit, I suggest you read ‘The artistic legacy of Peggy Guggenheim in Venice’.
7. Festa della Sensa
Tradition May 16, 2021
The Festa della Sensa is an ancient celebration of the relationship between Venice and the sea. The large procession consists of the ceremonial Serenissima boat and hundreds of boats from the rowing associations of Venice. The parade starts in front of San Marco, from where it sails towards Lido. You can easily see it from the Riva degli Schiavoni between San Marco and Arsenale. It is very impressive to watch the rowers in their colourful boats, while listening to the trumpeters on the Serenissima. Finally, the symbolic wedding ceremony, in which a ring is thrown into the sea, is held in front of San Nicolò. You can find more information in my post ‘The Festa della Sensa is the wedding of the year in Venice’.
8. Architecture Biennale
Event May 22, 2021 – November 21, 2021
The Architecture Biennale is the largest event in Venice which has been postponed with one year. Hence, from now on, the Architecture Biennale will take place in uneven years and the Art Biennale in even years. In 2019, curator Hashim Sarkis asked the participating architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together. Since then, his theme ‘How will we live together?’ has become even more relevant. I assume many participants have adapted their existing exhibitions taking into account this new world. If you are curious about what you can expect, I suggest you take a look at the Biennale Sneak Peek project in which architects and pavilions explain their project in short videos. As usual, the Biennale will take place in Giardini, Arsenale and in different palazzos across Venice. My post on ‘How to prepare your visit to the Architecture Biennale’ will be updated in the coming weeks. I will start publishing previews of the national pavilions as of March.
Event May 23, 2021
The Vogalonga is a non-competitive race where rowers from all over the world take over the lagoon and canals in Venice in a wide variety of colourful boats, from canoes to dragon boats. The event started in 1975 as a protest against the growing use of powerboats in Venice and the damage they do to the historic city. The 30 km course starts in the Bacino di San Marco and extends over the northern lagoon, passing by the islands of Sant’Erasmo, Burano and Mazzorbo and through the centre of Murano before returning to the finish in Venice. After 2 rowing classes (see ‘Rowing is the ultimate local experience when visiting Venice’), I don’t think I’m yet up to this challenge but I would certainly love to do it once.
10. Festa del Redentore
Tradition July 17-18, 2021
The Festa del Redentore is a traditional event to remember the plague of 1576. It is one of my favourite events in Venice which I already attended several times. During this weekend, a pontoon bridge connects Giudecca and Zattere so you can cross the Giudecca canal by foot. On Saturday evening, the fireworks above the San Marco bacino are very impressive. On Sunday, you can watch the procession, attend the mass or enjoy the regatas in the afternoon. My only visit to Venice in 2020 was during the Redentore weekend, but the celebrations were very limited and the fireworks were cancelled. More information on the different events and the historical background can be found in my post ‘Enjoy the Festa del Redentore with these insider tips’.
11. The Venice Glass Week
Event September 4-12, 2021
The fifth edition of the Venice Glass Week is again dedicated to celebrating, supporting and promoting the art of glassmaking in Venice. The program hasn’t been revealed yet, but the activities should be similar to those in previous years such as exhibitions, glass masters who open their furnaces for the public, conferences, musical evenings and guided visits. The entrance is usually free, but reservations might be required depending on the location. In December 2020, the art of glass beads has been recognized as Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco. I expect that this will also be celebrated during the event. You can read about the glass artisans, and my small attempt to glassmaking, in my post ‘Murano glassmasters: artisans or artists?’.
12. Regata storica
Tradition September 5, 2021
The regata storica is a combination of a historical parade and several rowing races. The historical procession commemorates the welcome given in 1489 to Caterina Cornaro, the wife of the King of Cyprus, who renounced her throne in favour of Venice. The brightly colored parade with ornate boats and rowers in 16th century costumes sails along Canal Grande. It is followed by four competitive regatas: the champions’ regata in gondolini, the regata in caorline, the women’s regata in mascarete and the young rowers’ regata in pupparini. More information on the different events and the historical background can be found in my post ‘Don’t miss a thing of the Regata Storica’.
13. Homo Faber – Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Event September 9-26, 2021
The 15 exhibitions of Homo Faber 2021 link contemporary, traditional and rare craftsmanship from Europe and Japan to the world of design. The immersive programme lets you look behind the scenes of the unique creative processes and discover a rich diversity of materials and crafts, from paper making to wood working, from the rarest artisanal techniques to some of the most iconic examples of contemporary craftsmanship. It includes live demonstrations, installations, conferences, film screenings, a garden exhibition and even Japanese tea and Ikebana ceremonies. The event also offers a unique opportunity to explore the magnificent structures of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini. The exhibition ‘Porcelain Virtuosity’ for instance will be set in the 17th century Longhena library (see ‘7 authentic libraries that will amaze you in Venice’). I didn’t attend the first Homo Faber exhibition in 2018, but the reviews were unanimously positive so this event ranks high on my 2021 list.
14. Festa della Salute
Tradition November 21, 2021
The Festa della Salute is another traditional Venetian event to remember the end of a plague. The plague of 1630 killed tens of thousands of Venetians or almost 30% of its citizens. This event is very popular amongst Venetians. They cross Canal Grande via the votive bridge connecting the sestiere of San Marco with Dorsoduro to attend one of the masses held in the Salute basilica from 6am to 8pm. Candles are lit in memory of those that died in the plague, and of loved ones who might be ill. The area around the basilica is filled with street food stalls which creates a warm and busy atmosphere.
In 2021, events and exhibitions might still be organized differently compared to what we were used to. Examples might be timed visits and limited numbers of attendees. When more information is available, I will add it to this post. If you don’t want to miss these updates, subscribe to The Venice Insider newsletter or follow The Venice Insider on Facebook or Twitter.
As you might not be able to visit Venice in the first months (depending on the evolution of the corona pandemic in Italy and in your country), remember that there are plenty of ways to enjoy Venice from home. You can follow online in the steps of a guide who walks around the city, you can read a book, you can visit museums online, and so on. Check my post ‘What’s (not) going on in Venice’ for these and other tips.
Now that you know what’s going on, you can start dreaming about your next trip(s) to Venice. If you want to know how I plan my trips, you can read ‘How I prepare my trips to Venice as a frequent visitor’.
Enjoy your trip and travel safely!