1968 saw the May revolt in Europe, a series of events where students protested all-pervading capitalist systems and an ever-encroaching hyper-commodification of art. The protests proliferated beyond student quarters, with the Venice Biennale vernissage plagued by infamous demonstrations. Several artists and even a few national pavilions closed their exhibitions for weeks on end: a true secession from the art world powers that be. A few years later, in 1974, the Venice Biennale reached a breaking point when the event was cancelled once again. Yet this period of turbulence was also one of dynamism, allowing the Biennale’s content to fully align itself with international trends in the nascent global contemporary art world. This article examines—through interpretation of archival documents and a critical analysis of Biennale art market sales and discourses of the 1960s and 70s—how these upheavals reverberated through the Venice Biennale’s history and impacted international relations around the exhibition. In doing so, it contributes to scholarship on the history of the Venice Biennale and provides fundamental clarifications on the institution’s origins. I add to critics’ opinions of the years following the 1968 edition and recall Biennale successes that have remained in the shadows. Analysis throughout the article is drawn from archival documents under-utilised until now.

Destruction or Secession? Critiques of Capitalism and Nationalism at the Venice Biennale

Stefania Portinari
2022-01-01

Abstract

1968 saw the May revolt in Europe, a series of events where students protested all-pervading capitalist systems and an ever-encroaching hyper-commodification of art. The protests proliferated beyond student quarters, with the Venice Biennale vernissage plagued by infamous demonstrations. Several artists and even a few national pavilions closed their exhibitions for weeks on end: a true secession from the art world powers that be. A few years later, in 1974, the Venice Biennale reached a breaking point when the event was cancelled once again. Yet this period of turbulence was also one of dynamism, allowing the Biennale’s content to fully align itself with international trends in the nascent global contemporary art world. This article examines—through interpretation of archival documents and a critical analysis of Biennale art market sales and discourses of the 1960s and 70s—how these upheavals reverberated through the Venice Biennale’s history and impacted international relations around the exhibition. In doing so, it contributes to scholarship on the history of the Venice Biennale and provides fundamental clarifications on the institution’s origins. I add to critics’ opinions of the years following the 1968 edition and recall Biennale successes that have remained in the shadows. Analysis throughout the article is drawn from archival documents under-utilised until now.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/5009742
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