The Sale d’Armi Arsenale area of the Venice Biennale (Image

The Sale d’Armi Arsenale area of the Venice Biennale (Image via

[This post has been corrected, see below for details]

Just as Pope Francis begins his tenure at the head of the Catholic Church, the announcement comes that the Vatican will finally have its own pavilion at the Venice Biennale. This year’s biennale is centered around the theme of the “Encyclopedic Palace,” inspired by the work of Italian-American artist Marino Auriti. The biennale exhibition, curated by the New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni, will include artists like Richard Serra and Bruce Nauman, as well as a “show-within-a-show” curated by Cindy Sherman, reports Bloomberg.

The Vatican’s exhibition in particular will be themed around the First Book of Genesis, from creation to the Tower of Babel, said Biennale president Paolo Baratta. A full list of the participating artists will be announced in the coming weeks. The pavilion, which represents the Vatican’s first contribution to the Biennale, will be located next Argentina’s, in the Arsenale section.

The Arsenale area of the Venice Biennale

The Arsenale area of the Venice Biennale (Image via

The plan for the Vatican to join the Biennale has been in motion for a while, and it was expected that they would debut at the 2011 biennale. That appearance was held up by bureaucratic issues that the Vatican thought might impact the quality of the showing. The previous Pope, Benedict XVI, was open-minded toward art — “art is like an open doorway to the infinite, toward a beauty and truth that go beyond everyday reality,” he once said.

Pope Francis might not see the Venice effort quite so positively, however. His record on art is spotty, including decrying an exhibition by artist Leon Ferrari in Buenos Aires as “blasphemous.” Protestors attacked three different exhibitions and forced two to close, including Ferrari’s. Hyperallergic staff writer Allison Meier described the situation as “a very conservative pope coming on the exit of another conservative pope.”

Bloomberg adds that the Vatican wanted a white-cube-style space for their pavilion and didn’t require the participating artists to be Catholic. There’s a lot to be intrigued by with the coming pavilion, but we’re mostly hoping that it actually happens, given the changing papacy.

Correction: This post originally stated that Cindy Sherman, Richard Serra, and Bruce Nauman would be participating in the Vatican pavilion. The post has been corrected to reflect that those artists are only participating in the overall biennale, not the Vatican’s specific exhibition. We regret the error. 

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

2 replies on “The Vatican Will Mount a Pavilion Exhibition at the 2013 Venice Biennale”

  1. Sorry, but you have misunderstood a great deal. Cindy Sherman will not be involved with the Holy See’s “pavilion,” and the latter is not connected to the Encyclopedic Palace project, curated by Massimiliano Gioni. Cheers.

Comments are closed.