Far from the teeming corridors of San Marco, the largely residential island of Giudecca harbours a quietly dazzling side of Venice. This wasn’t always the case: once home to grand palazzos, gardens and monasteries, the area bristled with factories and shipyards in the early 20th century before its decline into an industrial slum after the Second World War. In recent years, Giudecca has given way to artisans’ studios and ateliers, transforming into a thriving destination for contemporary art and an upscale escape for the well-heeled (Miuccia Prada is among its famous residents). The island is now set to take up a new mantle as the city’s first official permanent art quarter, launching at the 2019 Venice Biennale in May.

Led by Venetian art directors Paolo Scelsi and Valentina Gioia Levy, the Giudecca Art District will encompass 11 art galleries in addition to the national pavilions of Iceland, Estonia and Nigeria during the 58th Biennale. The newly minted Giudecca Art District Gallery and Garden will complement spaces from Studiolacitta, Chiesa delle Zitelle, Starak Foundation, Spazio Bullo, Spazio Raunich and Spazio Silos, with further galleries to be announced. The initiative builds upon Giudecca’s notable artistic legacy, having hosted Marina Abramović’s first performance in 1976, Damien Hirst’s debut Venice show and Ai Weiwei’s 2013 Biennale survey at Zuecca Project Space.

Over 60 artists will take part in 20 inaugurating exhibitions across the Giudecca Art District. Polish artist Aleksandra Karpowicz’s video triptych with October Collective will form the centrepiece of the opening. An exploration of identity, migration, self-discovery and the meaning of home, Body As Home traces various protagonists in London, Warsaw, New York and Cape Town. Other major exhibitions include the Voltaire-inspired ‘Take Care of Your Garden’, with works by eight international artists to be staged in a vast 1,900 sq m garden. §