It Costs a Whopping $3 Per Minute to Run the Venice Biennale’s Universally Acclaimed Lithuanian Pavilion. Now Organizers Want You to Help

The most popular event in the Biennale is barely affordable for its organizers.

Sun & Sea, Lithuania's contribution to the 2019 Venice Biennale. Photo: Neon Realism.
Sun & Sea, Lithuania's contribution to the 2019 Venice Biennale. Photo: Neon Realism.

In the opening days of this year’s Venice Biennale, a long line to get into the Lithuanian Pavilion was a permanent feature outside the warehouse where it was staged. The work inside, a marathon beach opera titled Sun & Sea (Marina), quickly became the unexpected standout of the show, winning the prestigious Golden Lion award for the biennale’s best pavilion.

Yet its organizers can barely afford to continue staging the performance, the New York Times reports.

Before the opening of the biennale, the three artists behind the work, director Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, librettist Vaiva Grainytė, and composer Lina Lapelytė, launched a crowdfunding campaign to help subsidize the project. But even then, the funds were meager.

“Going into the vernissage week, we didn’t have enough money to guarantee us until the end of the biennale, even performing once a week,” Lucia Pietroiusti, the pavilion’s curator, told the newspaper. But the money allowed them to keep the pavilion open through the busy vernissage, even though they initially expected only a handful of visitors.

Sun & Sea, Lithuania’s contribution to the 2019 Venice Biennale. Photo: Neon Realism.

Since the pavilion won the Golden Lion, the crowdfunded money has become essential. Because of the rush of visitors, the organizers had to “reorganize the whole functioning and infrastructure,” Lapelyte told the New York Times. But they can still only afford to stage performances on Saturdays. For the rest of the week, the pavilion remains open as a performer-less sound installation.

They are now hoping to raise enough money to add one mid-week performance. At the time of publication, the crowdfunding campaign had raised just over $41,000 through more than 1,400 backers.

And the organizers still have a long way to go.

The project’s page estimates that every minute of the Sun & Sea costs $3. Tally that up across the full eight hours of performance time each day, add in preparatory expenses, funds for technical assistance, and the cost to rent the space, and the number gets big quickly. There are still five-and-a-half months left in the show.


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