For six months every two years during the Venice Biennale, the floating city bursts to life with art exhibitions, luring in the creative crowd from all corners of the globe. Its main Arsenale and Giardini venues reopen their doors, while churches, palazzos and music academies are co-opted for a plethora of collateral events.
This year, however, major art galleries and foundations are laying down permanent anchor in Venice. Russia’s richest man – energy tycoon and art collector Leonid Mikhelson – has just opened a new Venice art gallery inside the historic Palazzo delle Zattere, while philanthropist Francesca von Habsburg is busy restoring the 16th-century Chiesa di San Lorenzo as a base for her TBA21 foundation. Other influential art dealers are also getting in on the act, including London stalwart Victoria Miro.
Here we step through the doors of five new Venice art galleries and foundations cementing the city’s place as a year-round art destination.
Russian billionaire Leonid Mikhelson has brought his V-A-C Foundation to Venice, joining the ranks of other international giants who have opened museums in the city, including luxury goods tycoon François Pinault and fashion legend Miuccia Prada. V-A-C has taken a long-term lease on 19th-century Palazzo delle Zattere from the Venice port authorities, restoring and converting it with the help of Venetian architect Alessandro Pedron. Two floors are dedicated to exhibition space, while the remaining two floors hold a restaurant, offices and studio apartments for visiting artists and curators.
The foundation’s Italian director Teresa Iarocci Mavica explained last year that they won the lease in 2013 because ‘we didn’t want to make money, we wanted to spend money to provide international culture in Venice’.
Palazzo delle Zattere is inaugurated by Space Force Construction, an exhibition that places early Soviet art in conversation with contemporary Russian and international artists. In front of the exhibition space is a pop-up cinema displaying Russian films and performances.
Palazzo delle Zattere, Dorsoduro 1401, 30123, Venice
‘Space Force Construction’ runs from 13 May – 25 August
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21)
Austrian power collector Francesca von Habsburg has embarked on a major project to rescue Chiesa di San Lorenzo and turn it into a Venice home for her TBA21 foundation. The church – empty for two decades – dates back to the 9th century but was rebuilt in the 16th century to designs by Simone Sorela. Complete with soaring ceilings and arched windows, the building is perfectly positioned on a quiet square en route to the Arsenale and Giardini. More details are set to be announced imminently.
Campo San Lorenzo, 30122 Venezia
Leading London gallerist Victoria Miro has chosen Venice for her first international outpost, taking over the 17th-century Galleria il Capricorno in Venice’s San Marco area from Italian dealer Bruna Aickelin. Explaining her decision to The New York Times, Miro said: ‘Artists love coming here and they’re queuing up to exhibit in this space. The art world is so global now.’
Chris Ofili inaugurates the white-walled space with Poolside Magic, a colourful series of charcoal, watercolour and pastel works on paper.
Il Capricorno, San Marco 1994, 30124 Venice
‘Chris Ofili: Poolside Magic’ runs until 1 July 2017
Gallery Alma Zevi – which opened in Switzerland in 2016 – is a younger outfit muscling its way onto the scene. It has opened a compact new art gallery in Venice, cannily positioned close to Palazzo Grassi. The storefront space has been transformed into a cinema, where artist John Smith’s Om film transports viewers to London in the 1980s. The video artist narrates street life in Dalston as passerby traverse the screen.
Salizzada San Samuele, 3357, 30124 Venezia
‘John Smith, Films in Sheep’s Clothing’ runs until 22 July 2017
Galerie Alberta Pane
Paris-based Alberta Pane has just opened her first international art gallery in Venice, taking over a former carpenter’s shop. She was lured to the city by the growing experimental art movement and will use her space to showcase performance, installation and video art, as well as sculpture. It will be ‘an energetic place where points of views can be exchanged – something Venice did not have before,’ the gallery boldly asserts.
It launches with Le Désir, featuring seven international artists in dialogue with each other and the space itself. Among them are Gayle Chong Kwan, Romina De Novellis and Marcos Lutyens. Pane will also use the space for workshops, discussions and research.
Dorsoduro 2403/h – 30123 Venezia
‘Le Désir’ runs until 29 July 2017