The Gritti terrace.
Photo: Courtesy of the Gritti

The Buzziest Events and Gatherings from the Venice Biennale’s Opening Week

The 60th edition of the world’s oldest international art show may be the main draw, but the vernissage attendees also traveled between a slew of parties

There are global art events—and then there is Venice Biennale. The largest and most hotly anticipated art event in the world, the blockbuster affair in La Serenissima is anchored by the main international exhibition, with countless satellite shows across the city of canals and the Olympics-level face-off of national pavilions elevating the extravaganza to an incomparable feast.

Every year, the biennial’s preview week draws the largest crowd of art world professionals compared to any similar event—and this edition was no exception. The festivities started on April 17 with the annual Illy brunch that celebrates the Italian espresso brand’s collaboration with the biennale. As tradition goes, a group of artists from the main show are selected by the curator for a limited-edition espresso cup set. This year’s release, which includes the work of Paula Nicho Cumez, Mahku, Rember Yahuarcani, and Aycoobo was unveiled during the brunch in the heart of Piazza San Marco, followed by an early evening piano concert at Giardini Reali.

Central Pavilion. Photo: Matteo De Mayda

In between, a large mass of visitors was already browsing the exhibition, with many forming extended lines in front of national pavilions. Among those that prompted many to brave the long wait were the pavilions of the U.S., Egypt, France, U.K. and Australia, which eventually won the Golden Lion for the best national participation. Later in the evening, Lehmann Maupin and Kukje Gallery held a joint celebration honoring Korean artist Kim Yun Shin for her participation in the main show at the art world favorite restaurant La Caravella, while Kasmin celebrated Walton Ford’s dramatically-installed exhibition, “Lion of God,” at Ateneo Veneto. The American artist’s mythological paintings of animals are placed under a breathtaking ceiling and a large scale Tintoretto painting with a theatrical light arrangement.

illy Biennale 2024 espresso cup set. Photo: Courtesy Illy

Exterior view of the "space in which to place me" (Jeffrey Gibson’s exhibition for the United States Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia), April 20 – November 24, 2024. Photo: Timothy Schenck

The crowd gathered at an adjacent bacari for bites of cicchetti and Aperol spritz, which is the week’s inarguable cocktail and snack pairing. The trifecta of international galleries—BLUM, Galerie Max Hetzler, and Timothy Taylor—came together to celebrate their artist Eddie Martinez for his representation of the San Marino pavilion at the hot spot Hotel Danieli. The bash at the lobby bar saw guests nibbling pasta and—again cicchetti—surrounded by the hotel’s ornate setting.

Perrotin chose another biennial favorite, Hotel Metropole, to celebrate Iván Argote’s outdoor sculpture Descanso in the main show. Fitting to the Colombian artist’s plant-covered sculpture of a fallen historic figure at the Giardini, the hotel’s lush backyard garden saw the guests toasting to the artist under spring blossoms. Those still with energy continued the nocturnal feast at Kurimanzutto’s laid back party at the local bar Campanile, where the tiny interior led the attendees to huddle out on the narrow street. The first night’s celebration did not stop there: Rick Owens and Michéle Lamy invited guests out to the Giovanni Nicelli Airport in Lido for a rave to celebrate Lamy’s 80th birthday. The party was the next morning’s main topic as the music continued towards the early morning and many returned to Venice via taxi boats with the rising sun.

ArtExplorer. Photo: Benoit Linero

The afternoon came with a light lunch not on the land but on a boat docked by the Giardini. Art Explora’s head-turning yacht welcomed guests on board not only for a feast but also to explore art on view, such as a massive sail by Laure Prouvost and a sound piece by IRCAM.

Metropole was this time home to Türkiye Pavilion’s party for their artist Gülsün Karamustafa, which gathered a large crowd to honor the grand dame of Turkish contemporary art. South Korean Pavilion  offered its national delicacies at its party at Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta, as well as a series of performances at the venue’s light-filled atrium. Another joint celebration was between Pace Gallery, Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, Max Hetzler, and White Cube in honor of Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes, who exhibits a show for the Applied Arts Pavilion at the Arsenale.

Iván Argote’s installation in the Giardini. Photo: perrotin

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The bash at Palazzo Pisani Moretta drew guests under the 15h century palace’s fascinating architecture. On the other side town, Paris gallery Templon invited guests for a true Italian fare at another biennial-favorite spot, Taverna La Fenice. The occasion was to celebrate gallery artist Alioune Diagne’s representation of the first Senegal pavilion with a suite of paintings inspired by the artist’s personal archive.

The late night partiers were divided between various off-site events, most popularly the joint bash by Ireland and Iceland pavilions, which had Björk at the DJ booth at Instituto delle Scienze Marine. There was also a salsa party thrown by Mendes Wood DM, Document, and Andrew Kreps Gallery to celebrate Julien Creuzet’s solo presentation at the French Pavilion at Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello, where the party-goers danced to African beats until 3am.

The Gritti Palace. Photo: Courtesy of the Gritti Palace

Hotel Gritti Palace’s lauded Bar Longhi was the most elegant escape from the hustle and bustle for the best views of the Grand Canal as well as the best Martini in town. Those lucky to snatch a patio seat at the bar on Friday feasted not far from guests that included Miuccia Prada and Anne Imhof.

Between group dinners and unending rounds of Aperol Spritz, the most seasoned visitors knew where to escape for the best cicchetti and white wine by the canal: Cantinone Del Vino Già Schiavi, a hidden gem Dorsoduro institution where locals and visitors both mingle. And this year, they had chance to top light lunch with the exhibition by Jim Dine exhibition at the nearby Palazzo Rocca Contarini Corfù where over thirty new and older work by the Paris-based American artist leads the visitors to a mesmerizing view of the Grand Canal.

Venice Biennale remains open through November 24, 2024.

Cover: The Gritti terrace.
Photo: Courtesy of the Gritti


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