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See Almost All of the 2024 Venice Biennale in More Than 100 Photos

Miguel Ángel Rojas, El Negro (1979). Photo by Ben Davis. Courtesy Artnet.

See Almost All of the 2024 Venice Biennale in More Than 100 Photos

How is Adriano Pedrosa's 'Foreigners Everywhere?' Judge for yourself.


by Ben Davis | April 25, 2024 


It’s amazing how fast it all happens. After months and months of preparation and build up, thousands of art professionals converge for the Venice Biennale over the course of a frenzied VIP week. They swarm the Biennale’s main sites, form an impression (usually in between a swirl of other social events, competing attractions, and side missions)—and then, like a flash mob dispersing, they sweep away just as quickly.

It’s a form of viewing encouraged by the biennial format—with their huge casts of artists, these vast international festivals encourage mania. But it is also a form of viewing that is notably out of sync with how any art show, let alone one filled with big and challenging ideas, might be best appreciated.

Helmed by Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa under the title “Foreigners Everywhere,” the 60th edition of the closely watched survey has, as ever, a lot to untangle. It’s worth carefully thinking over what it all means. Below, I’ve put together some photos to give a sense of what it all feels like (also, honestly, to help organize my own thinking as I finish a bigger review).

For most visitors, the show starts in the Giardini: the Central Pavilion.

Arriving, Pedrosa has struck an inviting note with his decision to put a soaring work by Argentinian artist Mariana Telleria out front, recreating a pro-immigrant monument from the Museo de la Inmigración in Buenos Aires. Even more spectacularly, he has given the facade over to a collective of Brazilian Indigenous artists known as MAHKU (Movimento dos Artistas Huni Kuin), who adorn the building with gorgeous, florescent tropical camouflage.

Within, the show overwhelmingly favors traditional two-dimensional media, principally painting and drawing, with most galleries pairing work by historic (meaning, dead) artists and contemporary fare. Usually, there’s an implicit theme to be decoded, like gay cruising, African diasporic artists in Italy, or female mysticism. There is also a run of galleries that center more confrontational work that flirts with documentary and lecture forms. An installation of Nil Yalter, Exile Is a Hard Job (1977-2024), sets this tone right as you enter, featuring video testimony from exiles that plays quietly.

Among the most memorable sections of the Central Pavilion are what Pedrosa calls the “Nucleo Storico.”

These are densely hung galleries dedicated to examples of non-Western abstract painting and non-Western portraiture. Here, Pedrosa is packing a lot of history in—paying a debt, as he calls it—delivering a vast mass of work by global artists who were major influences in their home countries but who never got attention at past Venice Biennales.

I tend to think that these crowded rooms function better as a curatorial provocation than as a true introduction to complex global art histories—but they absolutely are a treat. Something like half of the 300-plus artists in “Foreigners Everywhere” are concentrated in these setpiece rooms. You could spend days in them.

The other main venue for the Biennale is the Arsenale—a vast former shipbuilding space, turned into a seemingly endless, linear series of galleries.

For a show with a relatively unspectacular temperament, this is where the spectacle is, and the concerns of “Foreigners Everywhere” feel marginally more contemporary here. Textile works dominate in diverse forms, from skilled batik works, to multi-panel conceptual-art projects, to scenes stitched on burlap sacks by anonymous Chilean artists, lent from the Museo del Barrio collection. A large gallery dedicated to Bouchra Khalili’s The Mapping Journey Project (2008–11), featuring hanging screens playing the testimony of immigrants describing their journeys from Africa and the Middle East, echoes both the theme and key placement of Nil Yalter’s Exile Is a Hard Job in the Central Pavilion.

There’s also another “Nucleo Storico,” this one called “Italians Everywhere,” dedicated to a mixed bag of Italian artists who forged art careers beyond the borders of Italy. It delightfully imports architect Lina Bo Bardi’s scheme for displaying art from the São Paulo Museum of Art (where Pedrosa works). Paintings are shown on freestanding “glass easels,” labels on the reverse. It’s breathtakingly cool, though the “Italians Everywhere” room more reads as an excuse to honor Bo Bardi than anything else—and indeed, Bo Bardi was herself an Italian who forged her career abroad (she won a posthumous lifetime achievement award at the Venice Architecture Biennale just last year).

The Arsenale section kicks off with famed British artist Yinka Shonibare’s sculpture of an astronaut, reclaiming the space traveler as a metaphor for immigration. And yet, throughout “Foreigners Everywhere,” technology is mainly absent as a theme—until the very end when you hit a ghostly work by the artist WangShui, a mass of pulsing lights evoking a mysterious digital consciousness. It almost feels as if you are returning from a trip into the past via the show’s many, many reconsiderations of craft, history, and tradition into an unsettled technological present.

Oh yes, and just when you think you are done and can start to process it all, someone will say to you, “Did you see the works out back?”

As is usual, multiple works are sited in the gardens and Arsenale warehouses. While the Arsenale show feels like it tells a story, these spaces always feel like an awkward coda. This time around, these spaces include multiple lengthy film works, as well an installation by Anna Maria Maiolino that features several tons of soft clay objects. Make no mistake, Maiolino is not peripheral to this show: She won the 60th Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement alongside Nil Yalter—so it’s actually fitting she closes the show, where Yalter opened it.


The 60th Venice Biennale, “Foreigners Everywhere,” curated by Adriano Pedrosa, is on view in Venice, Italy, through November 24, 2024.