Venice Biennale moves closer to becoming an all-year-round academic hub

The organisation launched a contemporary arts research centre at the Expo 2020 Dubai earlier this month

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Roberto Cicutto, president of the Venice Biennale Photo by Jacopo Salvi. Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Roberto Cicutto, president of the Venice Biennale Photo by Jacopo Salvi. Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

A ten-month research project involving 110 students will mark the launch of the Venice Biennale's new "contemporary arts research centre". It is the first step in ongoing efforts to turn the organisation that manages the world's most famous art exhibition into an all-year-round academic hub.

Earlier this year, Roberto Cicutto, president of the Biennale, revealed that the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC)—which conserves posters, catalogues, photos, documents and multimedia from Biennale exhibitions dating back to 1895—would become the focus of rigorous, interdisciplinary research. This, he argued, could draw academic excellence to Venice, transforming the city into a global leader in arts research and diversifying its tourism-oriented economy. 

In the centre’s inaugural project, which was unveiled at the Italian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on 5 October and will begin next month, students from six Italian higher education institutions will research the life and work of international participants in previous Biennale editions from 1999 to 2020. They will create a database listing the participants’ age, sex, provenance and academic profile, Cicutto tells The Art Newspaper.

This so-called “geographical map”, he says, will facilitate future research into “the role of culture in diverse geographical areas, political settings and economies”.

Students from the participating institutions will be divided into 11 groups and each complete a three-month “apprenticeship”, including one month at the archive’s site in Porto Maghera and two in their own university or college departments. Debora Rossi, director of ASAC, will coordinate the project, with all of the archive’s staff providing organisational support.

The results of the study will be announced in November 2022. In the meantime, Cicutto is already working on future research projects. Research projects will soon be assigned to external coordinators, particularly the curators and directors of the Biennale’s six sections, and the centre will soon start work on a new database cataloguing heritage conserved in Venice’s historic cultural institutions.

The inaugural project will be conducted by students from IULM, Libera Università di Lingue e Comunicazione, Sapienza Università di Roma, Università IUAV di Venezia, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia and the Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello Venezia. It will help make Venice “a powerful magnet for those who come to Venice as a student, researcher, curator or simply a lover of the arts,” Cicutto predicts.

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