Venice’s Happening New Art Quarter Opens Far From the Tourist Crowds. Here’s What Makes Giudecca Special

Work by Yoko Ono, and the Icelandic and Estonian pavilions are just some of the shows and performances to be found on the former industrial island.

Giudecca Art District.

As the art world floods into Venice for the 58th edition of the prestigious biennale, people are getting strategic about the best way to take in as much art as possible. Navigating the city is notoriously difficult, and exhibitions and pavilions are spread across palazzos, churches, museums and other venues, which can be exhausting to find.

Anyone who has ever wanted some of the shows to be concentrated in an area beyond the crowded Giardini and Arsenale their wish has not come true. A short vaporetto ride from Saint Mark’s Square can be found the city’s first permanent art quarter. The Island of Giudecca has long played a supporting role during the biennale, but now the district will reach a critical mass year round, hope the quarter’s founders, Pier Paolo Scelsi and Valentina Gioia Levy.

The small industrial island is a great place to escape the crowds of tourists in and around Piazza San Marco—which have been getting so bad the city is planning to introduce a pre-booking system for visitors by 2020. The Giudecca is home to a growing number of galleries, including Galleria Michela Rizzo, Casa de Tre Oci, Galleria S.Eufemia, and Carta Venezia di Masone Fernando, as well as several cool hotels and arty restaurants. (Insider tip: Trattoria Altanella is a good spot for a low-key lunch or dinner.)

Giudecca has contemporary art history: in 1976, Marina Abramović staged an early performances there, and in 2013, Zuecca Project Space hosted Ai Weiwei’s exhibition “Disposition.” This year, the island is the site of the national pavilions of Iceland—Shoplifter’s wacky hairy muppet cave is wild—and Estonia, where Kris Lemsalu has built an ensemble of squirting vulva fountains.

The centerpiece of the new art quarter will be the Giudecca Art District Gallery, which will host year-round exhibitions in spaces in and around a working shipyard. During the biennale, the Guidecca Art District, or GAD, has organized shows in spaces across the island as part of its inaugural curatorial program titled “Take Care of Your Garden. Cultivating a New Humanism.”

Yoko Ono, Cloud Piece (1963). Photo by Naomi Rea.

You can find work by Yoko Ono; the gallery is showing her 1963 Cloud Piece and a new version of Write Your Untold Story, which was first unveiled at last year’s edition of Cairo’s OFF Biennale. There is also a site-specific work by the South African artist Kendell Geers.

There will also be a performance and talks program, on May 10 through May 11, featuring speakers including the Ghanian artist Ibrahim Mahama, and the director of Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, Vilma Jurkute. Performances include pieces by October! Collective and the Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku.

Here are the must-see exhibitions now open in the Giudecca Art District. 

“Body as Home”

Still from Body as Home.


WHAT: If you just have time for one exhibition, “Body as Home” is the one to catch. The exhibition curated by Miguel Mallol is of the London-based October! Collective. The group is made up of the Polish artist and abortion rights activist Aleksandra Karpowicz, the UK sound artist Fayann Smith, and the Norwegian multidisciplinary performance artist Isabella Steinsdotter (who is a proud descendant of one badass viking witch). The exhibition features Karpowicz’s three-channel film, Body as Home, which documents a meandering journey of self-discovery through four different cities, and explores the concept of “home.” 

WHEN: May 9 through September 25

WHERE: GAD Project Space #01

“There Are No Titans”

WHAT: An exhibition of work by the exiled Syrian artist Waseem Marzouki, who left his native country two days before the outbreak of the war in 2011, and the US artists Gig Depio and Tanner Goldbeck. The show curated by GAD “capture[s] the essence of the individual struggle in modern society and how the individual responds to their inherited state of being, no matter how grand or bleak,” according to a statement. 

WHEN: May 8 through June 15

WHERE: GAD Project Space #02

“Tu vs Everybody”

“Tu vs Everybody.” Image courtesy via Facebook.

WHAT: This group show organized by the network VILLAM and curated by Anita Calà and Elena Giulia Rossi will highlight the work of Italian artists Francesca Arri, Valeriana Berchicci, Stefano Cagol, Fabrizio Cicero, Iginio De Luca, Lamberto Teotino, Carlo Zanni. 

WHEN: May 9 through June 6

WHERE: Spazio Bocciofila and other venues across the island.

“Time Machine”

Pia MYrvoLD’s Time Machine installation. Photo by Naomi Rea.

WHAT: An installation of Norwegian-French artist Pia Myrvold’s “light hack sculptures”. Her installations feature analog and digital technology, glass and mirrors to reflect light in interesting ways. Myrvold will also be performing her work Extended Reality and The Sumerians of Holiday May 7 through 11.

WHEN:  May 7 through 30

WHERE: The former Church of Saints Cosma and Damiano

“Pavilion 02”

Antonio Gritón, <i>Antena to Charge the World</i>. Part of Magmatism Pic-Nic at Pavilion 02 curated by Gabriel Mestre Arrioja and Jacek Sosnowski. Photo Adriana Camacho.

Antonio Gritón, Antena to Charge the World. Part of Magmatism Pic-Nic at Pavilion 02 curated by Gabriel Mestre Arrioja and Jacek Sosnowski. Photo Adriana Camacho.

WHAT:  A group show of artists curated by Tomasz Wendland from the Polish group Mediations Biennale Poznań. Featured artists include David Rodriguez Gimeno, Jakub Cikata, Dariusz Gajewski, Andrzej Wasilewski, Adam Jastrzębski, Yo-Lun Tao, Su-Chu Hsu, Shih-Ta Liu, Chi-Hung Tsai, Andreas Guskos, Arkadiusz Marcinkowski, Tomasz Wendland, Harro Schmidt, Andrzej Glowacki, Pavel Korbicka, Hugo Demarini, Zbynek Janacek, Marek Sibinsky, and Mateusz Zabek.

WHEN: May 9 through 30

WHERE: The former Church of Saints Cosma and Damiano

“Recursions – Mutations”

“Recursions and Mutations” Vincenzo Castella · Lynn Davis · Jacob Hashimoto · Roberto Pugliese. Installation view, photo by Michele Alberto Sereni.
Studio la Città – Verona

WHAT: A group show of Italian artists Vincenzo Castella and Roberto Pugliese, and US artists Lynn Davis and Jacob Hashimoto. Curated by Hélène de Franchis, it is organized by the Verona gallery Studio la Città. The show, which explores the aesthetic strength of repetition to understand the world around us, developed out of a concept by Jacob Hashimoto and an essay by Daniele Capra.

WHEN: May 9 through July 28

WHERE: GAD Gallery

“After J.M.W. Turner 1834 – 2019”

Hiroyuki Masuyama, J.M.W. TURNER Looking along the Riva degli Schiavoni, from near the Rio dell’Arsenale, 1840

WHAT: A solo show of the Japanese artist Hiroyuki Masuyama, who was inspired by Turner’s paintings of Italy. The exhibition is organised by Studio la Città and is independent of GAD.

WHEN: May 9 through July 28

WHERE: GAD Gallery

“Force Field”

“Force Field” installation view. Photo by Naomi Rea.

WHAT: A group show in a former salt warehouse of 13 emerging Polish artists curated by Ania Muszyńska and organized by Starak Family Foundation. Together, the artists respond to art as “force field” enclosing a safe space for creative experimentation. Artists featured are: Norbert Delman, Małgorzata Goliszewska, Bartek Górny, Laura Grudniewska, Marta Hryniuk, Kornel Janczy, Tomasz Koszewnik, Dorota Kozieradzka, Magdalena Łazarczyk, Karolina Mełnicka, Maciej Nowacki, Cyryl Polaczek, and Stach Szumski.

WHEN:  May 8 through September 15

WHERE: Oficine 800

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