Venice Art Biennale 2024: a guide to what to see in and around the city

As the Venice Art Biennale kicks off (20 April - 24 November 2024), here is an ever-growing list of what to see in and around Venice.

Josefa Ntjam in Venice
(Image credit: ourtesy the artist; LAS Art Foundation. © ADAGP, Paris, 2024. Photo: Andrea Rossett)

At the Venice Art Biennale, countries from all over the world gather to showcase contemporary artists. In the main show, the world’s best curators give their take on the most prescient art being made today. The drama is high, the events are many: this is a chance to see some of the best, most relevant art around in an incomparable setting.

This year the biennale’s 60th edition is guided by the main exhibition’s title is ‘Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere’ inspired by the Palermo collective Claire Fontaine. At the world’s most famous national art exhibition we are being asked questions about internationality, belonging, identity, nationalism and acceptance. No small remit in today’s world.

“Artists have always travelled and moved about, under various circumstances, through cities, countries and continents, something that has only accelerated since the late 20th century—ironically a period marked by increasing restrictions regarding the dislocation or displacement of people,” read curator Adriano Pedrosa. “The Biennale Arte 2024’s primary focus is thus artists who are themselves foreigners, immigrants, expatriates, diasporic, émigrés, exiled, or refugees—particularly those who have moved between the Global South and the Global North. Migration and decolonization are key themes here.”

The Venice Biennale 2024: the pavilions

Pedrosa’s main show will include art by 332 living and late artists, most of whom are from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. He is the artistic director of Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP) and has staged a number of exhibitions focusing on art made by indigenous artists, both historic and contemporary.

If you are heading over to The Floating City then national pavilions vying for the coveted Golden Lion are John Akomfrah who works mainly in film installation Listening All Night To The Rain’ for Britain which is one of the most hotly anticipated exhibitions as is Kapwani Kiwanga: TRINKET representing Canada and Wael Shawky known for his considered film work is presenting the musical film Drama 1882 for Egypt. Veteran artist Gülsün Karamustafa will represent Turkey, France is being represented by sculptor French-Jamaican Julien Creuzet, emerging painting star Tesfaye Urgessa will be showing for Ethiopia and Eimear Walshe is representing Ireland with ‘Romantic Ireland’.

There is a high number of artists from indigenous communities being showcased in this edition, namely Jeffrey Gibson representing the United States, Greenlandian artist Inuuteq Storch will be exhibiting for Denmark, Archie Moore for Australia and Glicéria Tupinambá will be exhibiting for Brazil.

There are also a number of collectives and group pavilion exhibitions this edition with Renzo Martens working with Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) for the Netherlands, musician Andrea Mancini and Brussels-based design collective Every Island presenting for Luxembourg, Aindrea Emelife curating the Nigerian pavilion in a group show include Yinka Shonibare. Precious Okoyomon and Toyin Ojih Odutola, the Ukrainian artist’s collective, will be staging a collective portrait of witnesses of the war in Ukraine be curated by Marta Czyż, and Azu Nwagbogu curates artists Chloé Quenum, Moufouli Bello, Ishola Akpo, and Romuald Hazoumè for the Republic of Benin. See all the artists exhibiting at the pavilions.

The Venice Biennale: collateral events around the city

In addition to the biennale and the exhibitions opening around Venice next week there are a number of collateral events, and these can often be some of the most exciting and surprising shows at the biennale. Rebecca Ackroyd is showing Mirror Stage at Fondaco Marcello, British Pakistani artist Osman Yousefzada is putting on Welcome! A Palazzo for Immigrants at Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti, Fondation Louis Vuitton is exhibiting Ernest Pignon-Ernest, the Chanakya Foundation is staging Cosmic Garden a show of textile works made in India, the feminist show Breasts is opening at APC Palazzo Franchetti and Ewa Juszkiewicz’s solo show is at Palazzo Cavanis. Peter Hujar: Portraits in Life and Death is at Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà, and Artists and Allies x Hebron is exhibiting South West Bank: Landworks, Collective Action and Sound, a group show of work made in the region at Magazzino Gallery.

Outside the biennale, exhibitions in Venice’s stunning institutions never fail to impress with the hotly anticipated Willem De Kooning E L'italia at the Accademia, Julie Mehretu: Ensemble, a film installation by Edith Dekyndt and Liminal by Pierre Huyghe presented by the Pinault Collection at Palazzo Grassi, Fondazione In Between Art Film in its second edition, Nebula at Complesso dell’Ospedaletto and Re-Stor(y)ing Oceania at TBA21: OCEAN SPACE, Martha Jungwirth: Herz der Finsternis at Galleria Palazzo Cini Alex Katz’s ‘Claire, Grass and Water’ at Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore and the Guggenheim is showing an exhibition of work by Jean Cocteau.

Criticisms have often been levelled at the biennale for its inherently nationalistic set up, but this time many countries have taken an interesting tack on national representation, foregrounding indigenous artists and collectives. The main exhibition’s tilt towards the oft called Global South will also mean that here in the Europe we are being introduced to artists and ideas we know little about. All this promises an interesting show for our troubled times.

The 60th Venice Biennale runs throughout the city until November 2024

Venice Biennale 2024 in depth: Wallpaper* must-sees

Alternate worlds and end of days: Pierre Huyghe's vision

alternate worlds

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Marian Goodman Gallery, Hauser & Wirth, Esther Schipper, and TARO NASU© Kamitani Lab / Kyoto University and ATR © Pierre Huyghe, by SIAE 202)

Pierre Huyghe is famous for his explorations of slippages in reality, alternate worlds and end-of-days scenarios. His work in film, sculpture and installation is instantly recognisable in its darkness and its evasiveness. A featureless child searches for food in an abandoned landscape, a face glitches in a digital schism and shrinks away on a towering screen in near pitch blackness.

‘Liminal’, which opened in April at Palazzo Grassi’s Punta della Dogana, one of the Pinault Collection’s two locations in the city, explores Huyghe’s vision on a massive scale. Pitched into blackness on entering the exhibition, we are stumbling around – the floor has varying textures and the doorways are not fully visible. Something is flickering in the dim light, a small translucent creature emerges and there is a towering, huge screen with an AI video of a face, human or animal, slipping in and out of recognition.

Writer: Amah-Rose Abrams

Indigenous voices hit a powerful note in awe-inspiring Venice space

white cloths and black benches in vast venice hall

(Image credit: Co-commissioned by TBA21–Academy and Artspace, and produced in partnership with OGR Torino. Photo: Giacomo Cosua)

Chiesa di San Lorenzo, the home of Ocean Space, TBA21’s Venetian space for exploring issues of the ocean through culture, is not small. It is the kind of vertigo-inducing space that an artist such as Hirst, Kapoor or Gormley may be tempted to fill with an enormous, expensive art object to match the awe of the space with the sublime of sculpture.

Latai Taumoepeau and Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta did not get drawn into such presumptuous and clichéd art games, instead creating two delicate and poetic interventions either side of the 9th century deconsecrated church’s central altar. Many visitors who climb the six shallow steps from Campo San Lorenzo, through a modest door, and into the vaulted space may be forgiven for not even noticing the art installations – both only fully coming to live when activated through ritual performance and conversation taking place over coming months.

Writer: Will Jennings

Josèfa Ntjam on her surreal utopias in Venice


(Image credit: Courtesy the artist; LAS Art Foundation. © ADAGP, Paris, 2024. Photo: Andrea Rossett)

For Josèfa Ntjam, a utopian world becomes a surreal lens through which to consider themes of domination woven throughout history. It is a concept she has returned to for ‘swell of spæc(i)es’, a collateral event with LAS Art Foundation at the Venice Biennale 2024.  

Writer: Hannah Silver

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Les Lalanne’s world takes over Venice

Blue hippo sculpture by Les Lalanne in palace during Planète Lalanne exhibition at Venice Biennale 2024

(Image credit: Installation images courtesy of Ben Brown Fine Arts, London)

Les Lalanne’s surreal take on naturalism is coming to the Venice Biennale 2024, with one of the largest exhibitions to date of works by the late artist couple Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, uniting more than 150 photographs, rare artworks and objects at the historic Palazzo Rota Ivancich.

Writer: Hannah Silver

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Aindrea Emelife on bringing the Nigerian Pavilion to life at the Venice Biennale 2024


(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

Aindrea Emelife is the British-Nigerian curator spearheading a new wave of contemporary artists, and presently also the curator behind the second-ever Nigerian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2024. When we get on a call ahead of the event’s opening (on 20 April), she’s in Venice, working with a team on the installation. As she speaks, I can sense the excitement in her voice: ‘We are working towards the installation’s completion and it's been going really well. I'm looking forward to the reveal.’

Writer: Ugonna-Ora Owoh

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Berlinde De Bruyckere’s angels without faces touch down in Venice church

Installation view of artworks at ‘Berlinde De Bruyckere. City of Refuge III’, Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 20 April – 24 November 2024

(Image credit: © Berlinde De Bruyckere. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Mirjam Devriendt)

Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere has visited Venice numerous times in the past and exhibited her work during different editions of the biennale. She also represented Belgium in 2013, with an installation of a gargantuan fallen cripple wood tree (a species known and named for its twisted branches).

An architectural characteristic the artist has long found interesting about the city is hidden in the details. ‘During my walks around Venice, I have always been intrigued by how the walls are full of water and show the wounds caused by this containment,’ De Bruyckere tells Wallpaper*. For her Belgian Pavilion installation, she had marked those wall wounds inside the space by scratching them onto the canvas.

Writer: Osman Can Yerebakan

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Elias Sime reflects on the destructive nature of technology in Venice

Pile of discarded technology components used by Elias Sime to make art

(Image credit: Photograph by Alice Hendy, courtesy James Cohan, New York)

At a glance, Elias Sime's visually appealing large-scale wall works look like painted art pieces.

The work is made from repurposing electronic parts, including electrical wires, keyboards, and motherboards. The materials are mainly sourced from Mercato, the biggest open-air market in Africa, in the Ethiopian artist’s hometown of Addis Ababa. (The market is one of the places where the West dumps its technological waste on the continent.)

Writer: Gameli Hamelo

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Kapwani Kiwanga considers value and commerce for the Canada Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2024

woman in profile next to garden

(Image credit: Left, © Kapwani Kiwanga / Adagp, Paris, 2023. Photo: Laura Findlay. Right, ©Bertille Chéret)

Paris-based, Canadian artist Kapwani Kiwanga draws on her anthropological training for pieces that criss-cross a multitude of mediums at the Venice Biennale 2024. From performance and embroidery to sculpture and installation, her work considers the political implications of material, from the impact of the agricultural revolution to the consequences of alien species crossing continents.

Writer: Hannah Silver

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Lap-See Lam’s giant dragon head and tail takes over the Nordic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Bruno Hibombo as Past Lo Ting. Lap-See Lam, “The Altersea Opera”., 2024 Photo: Mai Nestor/Moderna Museet. Textile work © Kholod Hawash. © Lap-See Lam. Courtesy the artist, Galerie Nordenhake and Moderna Museet.

(Image credit: Courtesy the artist, Galerie Nordenhake and Moderna Museet)

This year, artist Lap-See Lam is leading an especially bold exhibition for Norway, placing a huge bronze dragon’s head and tail outside and filling the interior space with a floor-to-ceiling grid of bamboo poles. This commanding installation plays host to her hour-long ‘The Altersea Opera’, created with composer Tze Yeung Ho, with LED screens showing pre-recorded performances and multiple speakers throughout the space.

Writer: Emily Steer

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Guglielmo Castelli considers fragility and violence with painting series in Venice

Guglielmo Castelli _Sempre aperto teatro_ 2023 Oil on canvas 240 x 192cm

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

Guglielmo Castelli’s exhibition ‘Improving Songs for Anxious Children’ at Palazzetto Tito, Venice, explores childhood as the genesis of discovery. Bringing together a series of paintings, maquettes, textiles and knitted sculptures, the show explores the body, relationships, death and the dance between success and failure. Inside Castelli’s canvases, figures bend and contort in ways that defy anatomy, and are set against familiar domestic backdrops. The works portray a metaphysical realm, one that explores ideas of fragility and violence, carelessness and attentiveness, and morality and corruption.

Writer: Sofia Hallstrom

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Tesfaye Urgessa is the artist behind the first-ever Ethiopian Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale

artist with canvas

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

As the selected artist for the first-ever Ethiopian Pavilion at a Venice Art Biennale, Tesfaye Urgessa’s commission comes with more than the average amount of pressure. Urgessa, however, is taking it in his stride, appreciating the timing of the project, which coincides with a personal and professional full circle. After beginning his career in Ethiopia, studying under painter Tadesse Mesfin, he enrolled in the Staatlichen Akademie in Stuttgart, a move that saw him hone a style that juxtaposes Western and African references.

Writer: Hannah Silver

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What’s the big deal with breasts, ask artists at the Venice Biennale

breasts in art

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

Breasts have endlessly captivated artists – from the Old Masters to Cindy Sherman, Richard Dupont to Marcel Duchamp. Across the centuries, and through the mediums of sculpture, photography, film and painting, they have been a lens through which to dissect sexuality, illness, motherhood and politics, as well as igniting discussions on identity, class and race. They have also been fascinating, funny and fantastic, simply in their own right.

Now, a major new group exhibition in Venice asks why. Bringing together 30 established and emerging artists, curator Carolina Pasti is considering the issue at ACP Palazzo Franchetti. But where to begin?

Writer: Hannah Silver

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John Akomfrah explores the sonic for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2024

Portrait of John Akomfrah

(Image credit: Photographer: Christian Cassiel. © John Akomfrah; Courtesy Lisson Gallery)

John Akomfrah’s immersive and visual works consider migration and diasporic communities through the media of film. Now, in new work for the Venice Biennale, commissioned and managed by the British Council, Akomfrah is dissecting a historical narrative through an auditory lens, putting sound at the centre of his new piece, Listening All Night To The Rain.

Writer: Hannah Silver

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Amah-Rose Abrams is a British writer, editor and broadcaster covering arts and culture based in London. In her decade plus career she has covered and broken arts stories all over the world and has interviewed artists including Marina Abramovic, Nan Goldin, Ai Weiwei, Lubaina Himid and Herzog & de Meuron. She has also worked in content strategy and production.