Rant 17: Is the Biennale helping to sink Venice?

Rant 17: Is the Biennale helping to sink Venice? Natasha Bailey, Dear Venice, 2011. Black ink, digital print, postal stamp. 32.8cm x 30.3cm. Credit: Natasha Bailey

Owen and Fern consider the environmental and financial impact of the 53rd Venice Biennale and other similar large scale fairs and biennials, including Cornwall’s potential Manifesta bid. Join them to discuss this hot topic and share your thoughts on whether the art world needs to stand to account for the damaging environmental impact of extensive world travel.

The 53rd Venice Biennale is in full swing and those who made it to the opening parties are beginning to recover from their art overload, sharing their tips for the best spaces to see.

Guardian critic Adrian Searle describes it as ‘a very hot ticket and perhaps the hottest of all in the international art world calendar’. And it is all very convenient; you can hop from pavilion to pavilion experiencing (what is meant to be) the very best that each represented country has to offer in contemporary art either from their big names, new names or sometimes vaguely connected names.

It is big, it is spectacular, and in true consumerist style it has massive corporate sponsorship and millions of pounds pumped into the exhibitions. But who actually goes? Who can afford it? And as plane after plane of curators/artists/art lovers/buyers descend on the floating city we can’t help considering the environmental impact and gigantic art-world carbon footprint of such a massive event.

Venice is not alone in this; Munster, Documenta, Manifesta and other huge art fairs and biennials all over the world encourage extensive travel and continue to carve away deeply at that footprint.

The amount of money allocated for Venice is huge, but what would happen if the money dedicated to the pavilions was sent back home? It could certainly transform the potential of local artists, galleries and organisations. Does Venice do enough for the participating countries to justify the expense?

So what will happen if Cornwall wins the bid for Manifesta? It will raise the profile for art in the area but how will it be accommodated? How will it affect the existing community? Cornwall has a good reputation for their environmental conscience; especially when it comes to tourism, perhaps they could set the standard.

Contributed by Fern Thomas and Owen Griffiths

Fern Thomas and Owen Griffiths are both artists based in Swansea

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The views expressed in The Rant are those of Fern Thomas and Owen Griffiths and forum contributors and unless specifically stated are not those of Axisweb. See our terms and conditions


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