The International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia—is counted among the world’s most prestigious and historical international art exhibitions. The United States was among the fourteen countries selected to participate at its debut on April 30, 1885, which celebrated the wedding anniversary of King Umberto and Margherita of Savoy. Since then, there have been fifty-two International Art Exhibitions in Venice. In 2009, the event will encompass more than seventy national pavilions, which are located both inside the public gardens in the eastern part of the city—known as the Giardini—as well as throughout the city of Venice. Each country chooses its own method of electing representatives to the Venice Biennial and the commissioners (organizers) of its exhibition. Representative exhibitions feature group or single-artist shows.

Swedish curator Daniel Birnbaum, Rector of the Staedelschule in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, was elected Director of the Visual Arts Sector of the 53rd Venice Biennale by the Board of Directors of the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia. Mr. Birnbaum will organize an exhibition for the quarter-mile-long Arsenale, as well as the Corderie, the Artiglierie, and the Gaggiandre. The Italian Pavilion, which houses the national Italian exhibition, will also serve as site for educational activities, with spaces for workshops, seminars, meetings, and other Biennale-related activities.

La Biennale di Venezia originated in a resolution of the City Council to propel the spirited artists’ gatherings at Caffè Florian on Saint Mark’s Square into an art event of major importance that would boost both the cultural standing and economic life of the city. The pavilions in the Giardini, Venice’s first public gardens, present exhibitions for the city and its visitors throughout the year. While based on the nineteenth-century model of international exhibitions, such as the French Exposition Universelles, the size and structure of the Biennial evolved drastically over the last century to accommodate its average attendance of some 320,000 visitors. La Biennale di Venezia also organizes biannual exhibitions of architecture, dance, music, theater, and cinema that are structured similarly to the International Art Exhibition.

For more information, see www.labiennale.org