This is a guest post by Nena Driehuijzen, great designer (she made our logo), excellent photographer and awesome friend with a soft spot for art.

Is Venice only a place for lovers?
 This summer it’s certainly the place to be for art lovers. Don’t float float behind 20 other gondola’s filled with Chinese people and a singing Italian, no, walk around and visit the Venice Biennale!

Why the hell would you visit an Art Biennale? Because it is the walhalla for art lovers and it allows you to visit hidden spots and restricted areas in the city you can’t always have access to.

venice seaview

The Venice Biennale started this year on the 1st of July and lasts until November 24th 2013.
 This year’s theme is ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’.

So what to expect? First of all you got the main exhibition in the Arsenale (a huge complex of old 12th century shipyards and armories) & Giardini (the gardens of Venice). Paying €25 will allow you to visit both areas when you want.

The Arsenale

The Arsenale is a 50.000 square meter area, where you can easily spent your whole day enjoying the exhibition, the buildings and a cool beer or refreshment at one of the bars.

venice biennale ARSENALE inside

Creation, Un-Creation, Re-Creation. Try touching the visuals and start to gesticulate at the Holy See Pavilion.

venice Arsenale

The Giardini

Then there’s the Giardini. These gardens date from Napoleons time and contain 29 country pavilions. The buildings were meant to be temporary but things turned out differently. I’m glad about that because the pavilions designed by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, Alvar Aalto and Carlo Scarpa are one of my favorite places in Venice to stroll around.

Many countries like Belgium got their own pavilion, where one or more artists present their work. The central pavilion hosts the global exhibition of ‘The encyclopedic palace’.
Make sure you ‘exit through the gift shop’ and check out the crazy bar.

venice biennale GIARDINI Ai Wei Wei

Ai Weiwei is one of the artists invited by the Germany

venice GIARDINI Berlinde De Bruyckere

Berlinde de Bruyckere in the Belgian pavillion

Enjoy some free tea in the UK pavilion

Enjoy some free tea at the UK pavilion


Exhausted? Take a nap in one of the siesta chairs outside the central pavilion. Loved it!

Maria Lassnig Venice Giardini

Work by Maria Lassnig at the central pavilion


Anri Sala ‘s Ravel Ravel Unravel for France in the German pavilion. Yes ‘war is over’ and Germany & France switched pavilions. This huge room filled with Ravels’ music &’mousse’-walls is really overwhelming.

venice GIARDINI golden shower

Russia’s golden shower of Russia, which only women can enter. You have to grab some coins while holding an umbrella because you’ll get showered by coins. Keep one for yourself and put the other ones in a bucket that will refill the ‘shower’. (Vadim Zakharov’s Danaë)

venice GIARDINI bar

Giardini Bar

Take-Away Art

If you however are an art lover who doesn’t want to spent money ,than go for the ‘take-away’ art !
 There are more than 50 other exhibitions on different locations throughout Venice of which the greater part are free. You can easily recognize the exhibitions by the street banners. It is the ultimate chance to visit houses, schools and institutes that are normally private and locked off from public access.

venice Museo Correr

venice Museo Correr

Museo Correr hosts some exhibitions of the Biennale such as The Spirit of the Place in the 5 Platonic Solids of Lore Bert.
You will find a lot of classic art mingled with modern pieces. The museum isn’t crowded at all and if you buy a museum ticket for € 16 you can enter the Doge’s Palace, Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana when you want (valid for 3 months). So no more waiting rows to enter the Doge’s Palace.

Hooray! Feels like victory when you pass all those waiting sweating tourists.

venice INK BRUSH HEART - XiShuangBanNa

Ink · Brush · Heart, XiShuangBanNa – Simon Ma in het Conservatorium Benedetto, Palazzo Pisani (Campo S. Stefano)

Conservatory students were playing music inside a building close to the The Campo s. Stefano square. It added to the experience and made this work of Simon Ma even better for me.

venice PERSONAL STRUCTURES Palazzo Bembo

PERSONAL STRUCTURES Sam Jinks hyperrealistic statues at Palazzo Bembo, San Marco 4793, (Rialto)

Personal Structures was the best free exhibition I’ve seen at the Biennale. It has a lot of different artist like Sam Jinks but also very touching work by Yoko Ono. 

venice paviliion New Zealand

Bill Culbert for New Zealand,Santa Maria della Pietà.

When you walk from San Marco to the Giardini you’ll pass this New Zealand pavilion building. I love installation art.

venice Richard Mosse

Richard Mosse

The most touching work came from Irish artist Richard Mosse. Usually I’m not a big fan of war-journalism, but with Mosse’s work it was different. The images combined so much joy and pain.  

His candy coloured infra-red footage of conflicts in Congo, projected on different screens, really grabbed me.


Food & Drinks

Oh and one last thing. Be sure to have a cocktail, smoothie of Frulala (Campiello Riccardo Selvatico | Cannaregio 5620)! They are very refreshing.

Venice isn’t cheap if you are looking for food and drinks, but act local and have a wake-up coffee & croissant at the bar – don’t sit down, it’ll double the cost.

Grab a piece of pizza or buy some food in the supermarket for lunch and fix yourself a decent dinner in the Dorsoduro area. In this ‘student’ part of Venice the bars are visited by locals and tourists traps are nowhere to be found. The smell of weed coming from little windows fill the streets. To get here go up and down the Academia bridge and find yourself in another Venice. Take a walk along the Fondamenta Zattere Ai Gesuati, drink a Spritzs in a bar, eat some pizza near the water and enjoy the sunset views. 

venice Richard Mosse

venice dorsaduro

venice dorsaduro

The Venice Biennale – Do It Yourself

Dates: 1/07/2013 – 24/10/13
Theme: ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’
Price: €25 for both areas

  • ♦  Main exhibition in the Arsenale (a huge complex of old 12th century shipyards and armories)
  • ♦  Giardini (the gardens of Venice).

If you’re planning a trip to Venice, be sure to read Kim’s tips an tricks about spending a couple of days here without spending fortunes: romance on the cheap in Venice.