As April comes to an end, it is time to talk about the 2022 Venice Biennale. It just opened a few days ago and I feel it is already a great success, with many praising the work that the curator Cecilia Alemani did for the main section of the Biennale at Arsenale and Giardini. This year’s Biennale, entitled Il Latte Dei Sogni (The Milk of Dreams), presents 213 artists from 58 countries in the general section alone, not counting all the national pavilions and collateral events spread around Venice. The exhibition, whose title is inspired by the book by Leonora Carrington, “chooses Carrington’s fantastic creatures, along with many other transformation figures, as companions on an imaginary journey through the metamorphosis of the bodies and definitions of the human.”

But apart from the main exhibition itself, it is always a blast to be in Venice during the months of the Biennale. It is not only one of the most important events in the art world, but it is also the occasion for many local and international realities and artists to present their work in the Italian city, making it the real capital of the international art world for 7 months. And with so many events, exhibitions, and pavilions, it is not always easy to choose what to see. 

So, unless you have months or weeks to spend in Venice, to visit every single exhibition or collateral event, we put together a brief guide to the 5 best collateral events to check in Venice during the 2022 Biennale. These are not the best ones, nor the only ones you should visit by any means, but just the exhibitions I wish to visit if I only have a few days to spend in Venice. There are plenty of other official collateral events, that the Venice Biennale has listed on its website, as well as exhibitions held by private institutions, such as those at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection or the Marlene Dumas retrospective at Palazzo Grassi

But, if you want to start somewhere, and you have at least 4 or 5 days to spend in Venice, here are my top picks for this year.  

collateral events venice biennale - Palazzo Ducale Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer. Questi scritti, quando verranno bruciati, daranno finalmente un po’ di luce |
Exhibition view – Photo Courtesy MUVE Palazzo Ducale

Anselm Kiefer – Palazzo Ducale

First off my list, the solo exhibition by Anselm Kiefer at Palazzo Ducale is the perfect occasion to enjoy a magnificent art exhibition and take in some history and Venice tradition. Set in the Doge Palace, the opulent palace overlooking San Marco square, the exhibition fills up the Sala dello Scrutinio with massive paintings in the signature Kiefer style. Titled after the writings of the Venetian philosopher Andrea Emo, “Questi scritti, quando verranno bruciati, daranno finalmente un po’ di luce” (These writings, when burned, will finally cast a little light), the exhibition is part of the celebrations for the 1600th Anniversary of the Foundation of Venice. 

The paintings were commissioned and realized specifically for this space, and are inspired by masterpieces hosted in the palace, such as Tintoretto’s or Andrea Vicentino’s. Filled with all sorts of materials and techniques, from real gold to zinc, paint, and found objects, the paintings are a reminder of the stratification and negation that comes with history. And it is rumored that these paintings will be destroyed after the exhibition closes at the end of the year, so hurry up and do not miss the chance to see them. 

Anselm Kiefer. Questi scritti, quando verranno bruciati, daranno finalmente un po’ di luce (Andrea Emo)
On view: from 26 March to 29 October 2022
Doge’s Palace – Sala dello Scrutinio – Piazza San Marco, Venezia
Opening hours: every day 9.00 – 18.00

Info, tickets, and reservations:

collateral events venice biennale - Hermann Nitsch
Hermann Nitsch. 20th Painting Action | Exhibition View | Photo courtesy Zuecca Projects – ph. Marcin Gierat

Hermann Nitsch – 20th Painting Action

I get it, not everyone likes Hermann Nitsch and his crude, sometimes unsettling works. But he is, or better was, one of my favorite artists, and his solo exhibition in Venice is definitely a must-see for me. Nitsch recently passed away at the age of 83, just a few days before the opening of this Venice exhibition, but his spirit is intact in the display and set up of his works at Oficina 800 by Zuecca Projects. 

The series, 20th Painting Action, was originally created and presented at the Wiener Secession, Vienna in 1987, and it is today the only painting action to remain in one collection, the Helmut Essl’s private collection and the exhibition marks the first time that the 20th painting action works will be seen together in Italy since their original creation and exhibition.

Drawing upon the ‘Orgies Mysteries Theatre’ concept, that Nitsch developed throughout his career, this series is almost an immersive installation, that will envelop the viewers and bring them to a parallel universe. Less politically correct than most of the other exhibitions you will find in Venice, this exhibition will be a kick in the stomach for some and a mystical experience for many others. Let yourself be surrounded by the works, and pay homage to one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. 

Hermann Nitsch, 20th painting action. Vienna 1987 – Venice 2022
Oficine 800, Fondamenta S. Biagio, Venice
On View: April 19 – July 20, 2022
Opening hours: Wednesday to Monday, 10 am – 6 pm
Free entry

More info:

collateral events venice biennale - Fondazione In Between Art Film
Penumbra, Fondazione In Between Art Film – Exhibition view
Courtesy of the artists, and Fondazione In Between Art Film. Photo: Andrea Rossetti

Penumbra – Fondazione In Between Art Film

Shifting from painting to video, the third must-see collateral event in Venice this year is also the first institutional exhibition of Fondazione In Between Art Film. The group exhibition, entitled Penumbra, presents 8 newly commissioned and produced video installations. Hosted in the Ospedaletto and the church of Santa Maria dei Derelitti, the exhibition creates not only a visually impactful experience but also a rather intense one conceptually. 

As explained by the foundation, “The concept of “penumbra” is addressed on two levels: in material terms, the absence of light is the necessary condition for making moving images visible; in metaphorical terms, semi-darkness is interpreted as a threshold or place of transition within which the contours and appearance of things blur together.” 

The exhibition is a fundamental commentary on today’s world, and thanks to the works of the artists involved, it speaks to every language and tackles some of the most pressing issues of our times. Going from one film to the other, you will find yourself questioning your reality, and as in every good exhibition, you will come out with more questions than answers. 

Penumbra – Fondazione In Between Art Film
Complesso dell’Ospedaletto, Castello 6691 – Venice
On view: 20 April – 27 November 2022
Opening hours: every day, except on Tuesdays, from 10 am to 6 pm 
Free entry

More info:

collateral events venice biennale - Rony Plesl
Rony Plesl – Installation Trees Grow from the Sky, 2022 © Rony Plesl

Rony Plesl: Trees Grow from the Sky

A common theme that seems to connect every art event in Venice during to Biennale is the dialogue between contemporary art and historical landmarks, and this exhibition is no exception. 

Hosted in the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione and among the official collateral events of the 2022 Venice Biennale, the exhibition project by Czech artist Rony Plesl addresses the questions of the essence of human existence and the definition of humanity. It also touches on the relationship between humanity and nature, providing its immediate reflection on multiple layers of meaning. The narrative of the overall concept and site-specific installation of the unique glass artworks revolves around a journey, around seeking our path in the world of today. The realization of the Venice project is a world premiere of the unique technology of glass casting in a global context, allowing the creation of a glass sculpture without any limitations.

Rony Plesl: Trees Grow from the Sky/ Gli alberi crescono dal cielo
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione, Fondamenta Zattere ai Gesuiti, Venezia
On view: April 23 – November 27, 2022
Opening hours: from 23 April to 25 September, 11 am – 7 pm; from 27 September to 27 November, 10 am – 6 pm; closed on Tuesday
Free entry

More info:

Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained

Last but definitely not least, this group exhibition organized by Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art is yet another official collateral event of the 2022 Venice Biennale. 

The exhibition, hosted by Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello di Venezia in Palazzo Pisani, is curated by Ziba Ardalan and features eleven international contemporary artists, whose presentations align with the phenomenon of entropy, or a measure of disorder. According to the curator, the artists have independently identified and poignantly responded to a number of unfavorable phenomena that, over the past few decades, have increasingly reached a degree of significance in our day-to-day life and environment and within our social and collective history, thus threatening life on planet Earth.

Uncombed, Unforeseen, Unconstrained
Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello, San Marco 2810, Venezia
On view: April 23 – November 27, 2022
Opening hours: every day, from 10 am to 6 pm, closed on Sunday
Free entrance 

More info:

Looking for more inspiration and places to visit in Venice? We’ve got what you are looking for here. And if you are visiting Italy for the Biennale, why not check our related articles, like these about Milan, Firenze, Rome or Napoli.

Cover image Giardini (2019) | Photo Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia – Ph. Andrea Avezzu