Archive: Issue No. 85, September 2004

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Women to take charge of the Venice Biennale
by Kresta Tyler Johnson

The traditionally chauvinistic hierarchy of the Venice Biennale, established 109 years ago, is loosening the reigns and has appointed two women as directors of the International Art Exhibition for 2005. Maria de Corral and Rosa Martinez, both from Spain, are curators who represent different generations but share a cultural matrix. On the heels of this revolutionary announcement is also the creation in the autumn of 2005 of an international symposium on contemporary art to be led by the American artist and critic Robert Storr.

The Venice biennale has grown from Mayor of Venice Riccardo Selvatico's vision in 1895 to transform the artists' evening meetings at Caffé Florian into an international exhibition. The Biennale has subsequently become one of the most prestigious art events worldwide.

Martinez, de Corral and Storr each have a directorial role over their respective exhibitions and 'technically' full cultural autonomy, but this autonomy has been directed by the general thematic and cultural objectives of the Biennale Board of Directors.

In preparation for the 2007 International Art Exhibition, the Biennale's organisers are hoping to create a 'renewal in the visual arts sector' while maintaining a continuity with the traditions from the centuries past. This is a weighty task for the proposed directors and they certainly have their work cut out for them.

Maria de Corral will be responsible for a retrospective exhibition that explores the relationship between the present and past held in the Italian Pavilion. Rosa Martinez will investigate the relationship between the present and innovative trends in her exhibition in the Arsenale di Venezia.

Storr's autumn symposium will draw prominent international figures from the artworld to Venice to discuss and study the state of contemporary art. The project as a whole is envisioned as the introduction and starting point for the 2007 International Art Exhibition, which is to be directed by Storr himself.

This three year project is an effort by the Biennale's Board of Directors, who have been mandated to restructure from a Cultural Society to a Foundation, in the hopes of creating a strongly characterised Biennale that maintains continuity and stability for future events.