Officials at the Vatican have confirmed that there will not be a Holy See pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, but that it may participate instead in the Venice Architecture Biennale next year.
The Holy See participated for the first time in the Venice Biennale in 2013 with a pavilion inspired by the biblical narratives in the Book of Genesis. It also took part in 2015 when the artists Monika Bravo, Mario Macilau and Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva represented the Vatican; Macedonia-born Hadzi-Vasileva showed an intestinal chapel-cum-grotto made from dried pig’s stomach lining and plaited lamb guts.
In a statement, the Vatican Museums say that “the Holy See is very different from other countries that have a permanent presence at the Biennale”. Pasquale Iacobone, a representative of the Vatican’s art and faith department, tells us that selecting artists for the Holy See pavilion is a challenge as they “do not represent a country, but the interests of the Holy See and the Catholic church”.
Crucially, he does not rule out participating in future art Biennales in Venice. “The presence of other pavilions with questionable or politicised content is not a problem,” he says. The Holy See is considering participating in the Architecture Biennale, but no firm decision has been made, he adds.