September 15, 2015

Venice Biennale Welcomes A New Australia Pavilion

The first 21st-century pavilion at the renowned international art fair

  • Entrance to Australia Pavilion
  • Open panels on Australia Pavilion
  • Architect John Denton
  • Simon Mordant at Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale, known in Italy as La Biennale di Venezia, is an international contemporary arts festival that takes place in Venice. The fair, which has occurred during odd years since 1895, has introduced hundreds of thousands of visitors to the newest developments in contemporary art. 2015 marks the 56th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, which opened May 9 and continues until November 22, 2015, at a number of venues around the city.

2015 also marks the opening of Venice Biennale’s first 21st-century structure. The new Australian Pavilion is the only new construction in the Giardini—Napoleonic era gardens in the east of Venice that have been the traditional venue for the International Art Exhibition and are home to 29 national pavilions built by participating countries—in two decades. The structure, designed by Australian architects Denton Corker Marshall, makes a striking statement with its bold, simple silhouette: a rectilinear block.

Fiona Hall's Wrong Way Time

“The design is emblematic of Australia’s approach to contemporary architecture. The pavilion’s exterior—clad with black granite—functions as an envelope. Comprised of operable panels, the pavilion can appear as a solid block or a multi-form structure. When the panels are opened, natural light will stream into the gallery,” Australia Council for the Arts says. “Inside, an elastic and versatile white gallery space will allow the building to meet the needs of any exhibition design or function.” The two-level steel-and-concrete structure is the only building to face the Rio del Giardini canal. Visitors enter the building via a steel ramp that meanders through the trees before ushering them to a floating terrace overlooking the water. The Council says, “The design is a powerful architectural statement that serves as a contemporary counterpoint to the surrounding structures and signals a new moment for engagement with Australian art and architecture on the international stage.”

The new pavilion also puts Denton Corker Marshall, one of Australia’s most highly regarded architecture firms, on the international stage. Again. The design visionaries have earned acclaim for functional designs and an approach to creating memorable architecture that distills and refines a principal, singular idea. The firm is known for such landmark buildings as the England’s Stonehenge Visitor Center, the Australian Embassies in Tokyo and Beijing, the Melbourne Museum, and the Museum of Sydney.

Australian Pavilion Exhibition

Australia has been represented at the Venice Biennale since 1954. In the 1980s Australia secured the then-last-available location within the Giardini and in 1988 opened a temporary pavilion designed by architect Philip Cox. “The former temporary pavilion has served Australia successfully over the past 25 years,” said Elaine Chia, Director, Venice, Australia Council for the Arts, “and was an important statement of Australia, both artistically and architecturally, in the last quarter of the 20th century.”

Wrong Way Time by Fiona Hall

For the 56th Venice Biennale and the opening of the new pavilion, Fiona Hall, one of Australia’s foremost contemporary artists, was tapped by Australia Council for the Arts as the inaugural exhibit. The Council says her installation, titled Wrong Way Time, “will create a veritable museum of impulses, anomalies, and disorder through an immersive display of drawings, texts, and sculpted forms, which will be juxtaposed with objects mined from contemporary life.”

Despite the International Art Exhibition’s historic roots, the fair continues to stay at the helm of the contemporary art community. Since its inception, Venice Biennale has made an effort to address growing trends on the art scene by adding festivals of contemporary music, film, theater, architecture, contemporary dance, and a kids’ carnival. It seems that Australia’s new modernist pavilion is right on par with Venice Biennale’s visionary outlook on modern art.

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