Every year, I try to find new reasons for my regular trips to Venice. Hence, I was happy to discover several new initiatives for 2018 such as the anniversaries for 500 year Tintoretto and 150 year Ca’Foscari. Of course, there are the traditional events which are worth attending, such as Carnevale or the Regata Storica, and the Biennale, which is focused on architecture this year. The calendar of exhibitions also looks very promising. Finally, there are less-known activities which fit under the term ‘detourism’ such as the gardens festival.
Some events last a couple of weeks or months, so you can easily combine a few on your trip to Venice. So, what is going on in Venice in 2018?
Jump to 1. The world in a glass bead – 2. Carnevale di Venezia – 3. Marino Marini – 4. Ca’Foscari 150 – 5. Dancing with myself – 6. Architecture Biennale – 7. Festa della Sensa – 8. Art Night –9. Festa del Redentore – 10. Regata Storica – 11. Tintoretto 500 – 12. Venice Glass Week – 13. La vetreria Cappellin e il giovane Carlo Scarpa – 14. Festival dei Giardini – 15. My Christmas Venice
Exhibition Until April 15
Glass beads are part of the Venetian glass-making history since the 14th century. Still today, they represent an important part of the glass production. You have probably already seen these colourful beads in the shops in Venice and Murano. This exhibition will guide you through a huge historical collection. It consists amongst other things of 85 sample cases containing 14,182 beads, three cloth panels from 1863 and a gift from the Società delle Fabbriche Unite with 2015 beads and 266 mazzi di conterie. In addition to these historical collections, the glass musseum also shows work from contemporary artists. One of them is Alessia Fuga, who introduced me to the art of lampworking as you can read in my post ‘Murano glassmasters: artisans or artists?’.
Tradition January 27 – February 13
Carnival is without any doubt the most famous event in Venice and hence one of the most hectic periods in the city. It was first celebrated at the end of the 12th century. Over time, it evolved into a combination of historical re-enactments and festivities. The Festa Veneziana is quite different from what you might expect from the Venice carnival as there aren’t any mask contests. The water show and boat parade are however really worth a visit in the first weekend. From February 3 onwards, the ‘traditional’ events start with the Festa delle Marie. You can find a detailed overview of all the events in my post ‘‘The insider’s guide to Carnevale di Venezia 2018’. More information on the history behind the stunning costumes is available in my post ‘Glamorous masks and costumes at Carnevale di Venezia’.
Exhibition January 27 – May 1
The sculpture ‘Angel of the city’ of Marino Marini is already welcoming guests at the water entrance of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which houses the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (more information in ‘The artistic legacy of Peggy Guggenheim in Venice‘), along Canal Grande. The new exhibition will include many other works by this Italian artist as well as selected works by artists including Giacomo Manzù, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin and others. It will also show Etruscan objects and Italian sculptures from the 15th century. They were used by Marino Marini (1901 – 1980) as inspiration for his themes of the female nude, the portrait bust, and the equestrian figure. By interpreting classical themes in light of modern concerns and with modern techniques, he created a mythic image that would be applicable in a contemporary context.
Event February 20 –
The Ca’Foscari University was founded in 1868 as ‘Regia Scuola Superiore di Commercio’. Today, more than 20,000 students, of which many with an international background, are enrolled in this prestigious institute. The celebration of its 150th anniversary starts with the official inauguration of the academic year at Teatro La Fenice, in the presence of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella. Other activities include classes by Nobelprize winners for the best students, the opening of new locations abroad (in India, Turkey, Russia and Belgium), a Kids University and scientific projects on the patrimony of Ca’Foscari. There are many cultural events which are open to the public such as Art Night, a Short Film Festival, theatre and exhibitions such as ‘Art in the Dunhuang Grottoes’ in cooperation with a Chinese university. You can also follow a tour guided by students. As you can read in my post ‘Why you will never forget your visit to Ca’Foscari’, I strongly recommend this.
Exhibition April 8 – December 16
The collective exhibition ‘Dancing with Myself’ faces the primordial importance of the artist’s role as actor and material of his own creations. It combines a great range of artistic practices and languages (photography, video, painting, sculpture, installation…), cultures, geographic origins, generations and experiences from the 1970s to today. Approximately 100 works from the Pinault Collection – from Claude Cahun to LaToya Ruby Frazier, from Gilbert & George to Cindy Sherman, and from Alighiero Boetti to Maurizio Cattelan – will be on display alongside a selection of works on loan from the Folkwang Museum in Essen. More information will be available closer to the opening of the event.
Simultaneously, Palazzo Grassi will organize the solo exhibition ‘Cows by the water’ of Albert Oehlen.
Event May 26 – November 25
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, curators of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, will design the Biennale around #Freespace. They believe that everyone has the right to benefit from architecture. A beautiful wall forming a street edge gives pleasure to the passer-by, even if they never go inside. So too does a glimpse into a courtyard through an archway; or a place to lean against in the shade or a recess which offers protection from the wind and rain. They are interested in going beyond the visual, emphasizing the role of architecture in the choreography of daily life. I think their concept does not only fit the Architecture Biennale itself, but also the city of Venice.
Even if you’re not professionally active in architecture, the Architecture Biennale is certainly worth a visit. I will publish previews of most of the national pavilions on my website in the coming months. If you are curious about what you can expect, I suggest you start by reading my post ‘What to expect from the Architecture Biennale 2018‘ and you carefully watch the Biennale page on my site.
Tradition May 13
The Festa della Sensa is an ancient celebration of the relationship between Venice and the sea. The celebration includes a large procession at sea, headed by the Serenissima boat in which mayor Luigi Brugnaro takes on the traditional role of the Doge. It is followed by 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 watch it from the Riva degli Schiavoni between San Marco and Arsenale. The parade then continues to salute the military school at Sant’Elena and the fort of Sant’Andrea. Finally, the symbolic wedding ceremony, in which a golden ring is thrown into the sea, is held in front of San Nicolò. Afterwards, there are several regatas taking place. More details about the history af the event and the activities of this day can be found in my post ‘The Festa della Sensa is the wedding of the year in Venice‘.
8. Art Night
Event June 23
Art Night is an annual event organized by Ca’Foscari. If you like to be immersed in a wide variety of culture, you will certainly love this event. It gives you the opportunity to attend many cultural events, in the broad sense of the word, all over Venice. You can expect visits to palazzos and other historical buildings which open exceptionally, meetings with authors in bookstores, guided tours, concerts, light shows, activities for children, and many more. The entrance is usually free, but reservations might be required depending on the location. The main difficulty is to choose what to attend, as it only lasts one night.
Tradition July 14-15
The Festa del Redentore is one of the few events in Venice which still has a very strong bias towards the locals. To remember the plague of 1576, a pontoon bridge is built across the canal to Guidecca to the Redentore church. On Saturday, the Bacino di San Marco fills up with boats, festively decorated with balloons and garlands. Thousands of Venetians await the fireworks while dining on the boats or along the Riva with family and friends. The fireworks are very impressive and one of the best I have ever seen. The religious celebrations take place on Sunday and include a mass and a procession. The festivities end with a series of regatas on Sunday afternoon. 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’.
10. Regata storica
Tradition September 2
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. Ornate boats with rowers in 16th century costumes carry the Doge, the Doge’s wife and all the highest ranking Venetian officials up Canal Grande in a brightly colored parade. The locals are however mainly interested in the four boat races that follow the parade: the champions’ regatta in gondolini, the regatta in caorline, the women’s regatta in mascarete and the young rowers’ regatta 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’.
11. Tintoretto 500
Event September 7 – January 6, 2019
To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto (1519 – 1594), several events will be organized in 2018. The exhibition ‘Tintoretto: The Artist of Venice at 500’ at Palazzo Ducale will focus on Tintoretto’s creative process. About 70 of his masterpieces and a rare collection of drawings will be displayed. The Gallerie dell’Accademia will show works of the young artist at ‘Tintoretto Giovane’. The interdisciplinary exhibition ‘Art, Faith, and Medicine in Tintoretto’s Venice’ at the Scuola Grande di San Marco will illustrate the interconnections between art, medicine, anatomical studies and devotional belief.
Thanks to the support of Save Venice, 15 Tintoretto paintings in Venice will be restored to reveal their original colours, as well as the artist’s tomb in the church of Madonna dell’Orto, in collaboration with the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Finally, there will be many other collateral events which will look at the link between Tintoretto and architecture, history, music, and fabrics. If you want to know more about Tintoretto or already discover some of his work before this event, I suggest you read my post ‘Where to find the most stunning masterpieces of Tintoretto’.
Event September 9 – 16
This event was first launched in 2017 to revitalise and sustain the art of glass, one of the city’s most important artistic and creative activities. (See also my post ‘Murano glassmasters: artisans or artists?’) With 75,000 visitors attending one or more of the 150 events spread across 100 locations in Venice, it was clearly a success. It was therefore decided to organize a second edition in 2018. The events include exhibitions, conferences, screenings, educational activities, themed evenings and open furnaces. Several new developments will be announced soon and included here. The most important change will be the installation of a curatorial committee. A team of international experts from the glass sector, including curators, historians, critics and scholars, will evaluate all applications for participation. More details about the 2018 edition of The Venice Glass Week can be found in my post ‘The Venice Glass Week triggers many exciting glass events’.
13. La vetreria Cappellin e il giovane Carlo Scarpa – Le Stanze del Vetro
Exhibition September 9 – January 6
Carlo Scarpa is a well-known Venetian architect. Before focusing his career on architecture, he worked as a designer of beautiful glass objects for Cappellin. The exhibition is a follow-up of the one on Cappellin and Venini glass which was on display in 2017. It also shows the history of the glassworks of Cappellin. This renowned glassmaster from Murano is known for his exceptional quality, both in the glass techniques used (from transparent glass to the extraordinary opaque glass) and the elegant and modern design of the objects. You can find more information on this exhibition in my post ‘The Venice Glass week triggers many exciting glass events’. Entrance to this beautiful glass museum on San Giorgio Maggiore is free, so there’s no reason not to visit it. If you want to know more about Carlo Scarpa, you can also follow this walk around Venice: ‘Explore Venice in the steps of Carlo Scarpa’.
Event October 5 – 7
Gardens might not be the first thing that come to mind when you think about Venice. There are however many gems hidden across the island. Some can be visited all-year round, while others are private. This event gives you the opportunity to visit a series of gardens, which open exclusively for this weekend. It is organized by Wigwam Club Giardini Storici Venezia, who wants to protect the precious heritage of these historic gardens. Reservations are often required, so keep an eye on the website of the organization to know when subscriptions are opened.
The festival coincides with the Festa del Mosto at Sant’Erasmo, in honour of the grape must (freshly pressed grape juice). This makes a perfect combination if you are looking for a ‘green’ Venice weekend. You can find more information in my post ‘Wander through the hidden gardens in Venice‘.
(Update November 2018: This event has been cancelled for this year.)
My Christmas Venice is a relatively new event in the Dorsoduro sestiere. It was launched in 2016 to enhance the Christmas spirit in Venice. The activities include a Christmas market at Palazzo Zenobio, a food village, Santa Claus in a gondola and several artistic and cultural events. One example is the exhibition of contemporary artworks related to Christmas. Two large illuminated trees are set in front of the Basilica della Madonna della Salute and at Palazzo Ducale on Piazza San Marco. There is also a tree designed by an artist (Marco Lodola in 2017) at the Santa Lucia train station.
Now that you know what’s going on, you can take your agenda and decide when to take your next trip(s) to Venice. I will publish more details about these events closer to their start date. If you don’t want to miss these updates, subscribe to The Venice Insider newsletter or follow The Venice Insider on Facebook or Twitter.
For more details on these events or last minute changes, you can click on each title to access their site.
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