2019 will be a year fully packed with interesting events and exhibitions in Venice. There are the traditional events, such as Carnevale or the Festa della Salute. Art lovers will indulge themselves in art at the Art Biennale or at one of the numerous exhibitions all over the city. Finally, there are the activities which mainly target the locals, such as Art Night or Ve.Nice Stuff, but which are also worthwhile for visitors.
The activities are well-spread across the entire year. No matter when you plan to visit Venice, you will have plenty of options to choose from. On top of that, most last a couple of weeks or even months, so you can easily combine a few on your trip to Venice. So, what is going on in Venice in 2019?
Visit Futuruins – Carnevale – Canaletto and Venice – Ocean Space – La Pelle – Maurice Marinot – Adrian Ghenie – Art Biennale – Time, Forward! – Festa della Sensa – Art Night – Salone Nautico – Festa del Redentore – Regata storica – The Venice Glass Week – From Titian to Rubens – Peggy Guggenheim – Festa della Salute – Ve.Nice Stuff
Exhibition Until March 24
The special atmosphere of the former house of Mariano Fortuny and the ever-stunning display of exhibitions make Palazzo Fortuny one of my favourite palazzos in Venice. In Futuruins, the ruin as concept symbolises the presence of the past but at the same time it becomes a valid foundation stone for building the future. Over 250 works from the Venetian Civic Museums and the State Hermitage Museum, as well as from other Italian and international public and private collections, illustrate the multiple meanings attributed to ruins through the centuries: from the architectural and sculptural remains of the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian-Babylonian and Syrian civilisations, to contemporary art that looks at the physical and moral ruins of today’s society. You can read more about Palazzo Fortuny in my post ‘Follow your intuition to Palazzo Fortuny’.
Tradition February 16 – March 5
Carnival is without any doubt the most famous event in Venice. It was first celebrated at the end of the 12th century. Over time, it evolved into a combination of historical re-enactments, such as the Festa delle Marie or the Nicolotti e Castellani, and festivities, such as the Festa Veneziana or the Best Masked Costume Competition. You can find a detailed overview of all the events in my post ‘The insider’s guide to Carnevale di Venezia’. You can attend these activities as a neutral spectator or you can parade through Venice in your own costume. If you want to get some idea of what this entails, you can read my post ‘Behind the scenes: The magic of Carnival in Venice in costume’.
Exhibition February 23 – June 9
The rooms of Palazzo Ducale will transfer you to the lights and shadows of Venice in the 18th century. A new artistic form broke the bonds with the rigour of classicism and with the theatricality of baroque, while colour began to precede over line. Two young artists of the same generation began painting works in which light played an important role: Giambattista Tiepolo used aggressive brushstrokes in dynamic compositions, while Giovanni Antonio Canal or Canaletto focused on painting views. This was a period of excellence in the areas of painting, sculpture and decorative arts. You can admire important artists such as Luca Carlevarijs, Rosalba Carrera, Pietro Longhi, Giambattista Piranesi, Francesco Guardi, Giandomenico Tiepolo (son of Giambattista) and Antonio Canova.
Exhibition From March 23
Ocean Space is a new collaborative platform for research, discovery, and innovation supporting ocean stewardship and conservation. The exhibition is the creative output of eight years of explorations and research and is spearheaded by TBA21-Academy. Ocean Space opens with a largescale installation and research project focused on the seas by pioneering video and performance artist Joan Jonas. Curated by Stefani Hessler, the installation includes dozens of drawings, mirror sculptures, video installations, and theatre boxes in large scale. TBA21–Academy also opens its archives to the public with the first physical presentation of OceanArchive. Ocean Space will be based in the historic church of San Lorenzo, which was largely closed to the public for the past 100 years. This is an additional argument to visit Ocean Space in Venice.
Exhibition From March 24
The first monographic exhibition of Luc Tuymans (°1958) in Italy is one of my favourites for this year. The title ‘La Pelle’ (The Skin) refers to Curzio Malaparte’s 1943 novel. The exhibition includes over 80 works of the Belgian artist and focuses on his paintings from 1986 to today. Considered as one of the most influential painters of the international art scene, Luc Tuymans has been dedicating himself to figurative painting since the mid 1980s. He has contributed throughout his career to the rebirth of this medium in contemporary art. Luc Tuymans will also unveil a site-specific work created specifically for the spaces of Palazzo Grassi. In the meantime, I visited the exhibition and I really loved it. You can read about my experience in ‘The imposing exhibition of Luc Tuymans in Palazzo Grassi gets under your skin‘. In parallel, the exhibition ‘Luogo e Segni’ will be on display at Punta della Dogana.
Exhibition March 25 – July 28
This exhibition will be the first international tribute celebrating the French glass artist and craftsman Maurice Marinot (1882-1960). Through his research and experimentation, he laid the foundations of modern and contemporary art glass. The exhibition will feature more than 200 works in glass, mostly from the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris as well as many preparatory drawings. It will show the extraordinary production of the glass artist, from his early enamel works to the hand-blown pieces that Maurice Marinot created and modeled thanks to his remarkable skills and creativity. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Alberto Burri retrospective or take a tour at the Fondazione Cini while you are on San Giorgio Maggiore. You can find more information in my post ‘Why San Giorgio Maggiore is worth your visit’.
Exhibition April 19 – November 25
The internationally renowned Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie (°1977) will present a new series of paintings at this solo exhibition. The work of this contemporary painter has been compared to Francis Bacon and Mark Rothko. I discovered his work in 2015 at the Romanian pavilion of the Art Biennale but you might also have seen his work in 2011 at Palazzo Grassi. The exhibition will be hosted on the second floor of Palazzo Cini in Dorsoduro. It’s a perfect opportunity to visit this less-known and recently renovated museum house. It contains a significant part of the historic art collection of the industrialist and philanthropist Vittorio Cini (1885 – 1977).
8. Art Biennale
Event May 11 – November 24
The 58th International Art Exhibition will be titled ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’, after an ancient Chinese curse referring to periods of uncertainty, crisis and turmoil. The director of the event is Ralph Rugoff, who has been the Director of the Hayward Gallery of London since 2006. The 2019 Art Biennale will not have a theme per se, but will highlight a general approach to making art and a view of art’s social function. What is most important about an exhibition is not what it puts on display, but how audiences can use their experience of the exhibition afterwards. It should open people’s eyes and stimulate them to confront everyday realities from expanded viewpoints and with new energies. You can find all my posts and previews related in this Biennale overview. If you are curious about what you can expect, I suggest you also subscribe to my biweekly newsletter.
Exhibition From May
The international group exhibition, entitled Time, Forward!, will seek to question the notion and function of time and how it relates to new forms of consciousness, action and sight in the 21st century. Curated by Omar Kholeif, Time Forward! is an exhibition made up entirely of new commissions by artists including Rosa Barba, Daria Irincheeva, Alexandra Sukhareva, Adam Linder, Haroon Mirza, Walid Raad and James Richards. I discovered the V-A-C Foundation on Zattere last year and I was really impressed by their selection of beautiful artworks. The modern restoration of the palazzo is also worth a visit on its own.
Tradition June 2
The Festa della Sensa is an ancient celebration of the relationship between Venice and the sea. The large procession at sea is 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. You can find more information in my post ‘The Festa della Sensa is the wedding of the year in Venice’.
11. Art Night
Event June 22
Art Night is an annual event organized by the Ca’Foscari university. It consists of a series of cultural events, in the broad sense of the word, all over Venice. The 2019 date and program isn’t available yet, but 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.
12. Salone Nautico di Venezia – Arsenale
Event June 18 – 23
This event will be organized for the first time in 2019. It will focus on the contemporary side of the maritime culture of Venice. First of all, there will be a wide variety of boats on display: as a playful medium, for families, but also as a means of work, from local transportation to cargo ships up to boats used by the police. There will also be a leisure area where everyone can try rowing or sailing. You can also use a gondola service inside the basin to reach the northern part of the Arsenale. Several exhibitions will be hosted, such as on nautical design, on yachting, on technological innovation for ecological navigation or on the production activities at the port of Marghera. The Naval Museum will also be involved in the event. It’s a unique opportunity to discover a large part of the Arsenale which is otherwise often closed (more info in ‘The fascinating transformation behind the Arsenale walls‘).
Tradition July 20
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 Guidecca canal from Zattere 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’.
14. Regata storica
Tradition September 1
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 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’.
15. From Titian to Rubens. Masterpieces from Flemish Collections – Palazzo Ducale
Event September 5 – March 1, 2020
This exhibition will show the historic connections between Venice and the Flemish port of Antwerp, and between their merchants and artists. The ties between Flanders and Venice also runs through the story of three artists from Antwerp: Maerten de Vos, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, who came to the lagoon and stayed here between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and painted a number of masterpieces here. The exhibition will present ten thematic sections and eighty works, including the altarpiece from the demolished church of San Geminiano. You can find read more about this exhibition in my post ‘Marvel at Venetian and Flemish masters in Palazzo Ducale‘.
Event September 7 – 15
This event was launched in 2017 to revive and promote the art of glassmaking in Venice. The program for the third edition in 2019 hasn’t been revealed yet, but you can expect similar activities as in 2018. At this edition, 180 events were spread across Venice, Mestre and Murano and attracted 91,000 visitors. There were exhibitions in museums, in galleries and in shops. Several glassmasters opened their furnaces for the public. You could attend conferences, musical evenings or video projections and join glass workshops or guided visits. And you could even run across Murano, following a candle-lit course lit which passes through 6 fully operating furnaces. A few of these activities are described in detail in my post ‘The Venice Glass Week triggers many exciting glass events’.
Exhibition September 21 – January 27, 2020
To celebrate Peggy Guggenheim’s Venetian life and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her death, this exhibition will shed light on how she added works of art to her collection after she made Venice her home in 1948. It will present a selection of paintings, sculptures and works of paper that Peggy Guggenheim acquired from the late 1940s to 1979, while simultaneously highlighting the milestone events and exhibitions that she organized and participated in. The exhibition will offer an opportunity to revisit renowned masterpieces such as René Magritte’s Empire of Light, alongside rarely exhibited works by artists such as René Brô, Gwyther Irwin, Grace Hartigan, Kenzo Okada and Tomonori Toyofuku. The exhibition is curated by Karole P. B. Vail, the current director and granddaughter of Peggy Guggenheim. You can read more about Peggy Guggenheim in my post ‘The artistic legacy of Peggy Guggenheim in Venice’.
18. Festa della Salute
Tradition November 21
The Festa della Salute is another of the traditional Venetian events to remember the end of a plague. The plague of 1630 killed tens of thousands of Venetians or almost 30% of its citizens. To end this tragedy, the doge and patriarch promised that a great new church would be built to honour the Virgin Mary, and that an annual procession would take place on November 21. This event is still 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.
19. Ve.Nice Stuff
Ve.Nice Stuff is a design fair to discover and promote craft made quality products. It’s an opportunity for designers and independent producers to present their works to a public of curious, potential buyers of shops, galleries, bookshops, as well as private buyers. The event highlights traditional craftsmanship, responding to the growing demand for quality, uniqueness and originality of a product. The team also fosters the idea of sustainability of production, by using recycled materials as well as by recovering traditional craft techniques which would otherwise get lost. In 2018, 21 designers took part in this event organized by Antonella Maione and Mauro Cazzaro of KANZ architetti. Ve.Nice Stuff is totally free and open to the city and all its visitors.
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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