Venice! You beguiling city of history and romance.

One icy winter morning, jet-lagged and sleep-deprived, I walked to Piazza San Marco during my first-ever trip to Vivaldi’s home-town in the early 80’s, and saw something so mesmerizingly beautiful the memory of it is still vivid after all these years. As the fog rolled off the lagoon it billowed in and out of the columns of the magnificently ornate colonnaded arcade, cloaking all in misty grey clouds and standing in front of the opulent Byzantine Saint Mark’s Basilica, without a tourist to be seen (well just me), it was a moment of intense, surreal and unforgettable beauty.

In May, thousands of international collectors, curators, gallerists, critics, media, advisors, onlookers et al will converge on the Renaissance splendor of Venice for the organized madness of the 56th Venice Biennale, one of the world’s premier contemporary art fairs.

Fiona Hall AO, one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists with a career spanning more than 30 years, was selected by the Australian Council for the Arts, as the Biennale’s Australian artist. Hall will create a multisensory experience of sights and sounds for the 2015 Venice Biennale, which ‘… will be an immersive installation that confronts global political, financial, and environmental events and issues. In the artist’s words, the exhibition will be “a minefield of madness, badness, and sadness in equal measure.” (Australia Council for the Arts)

The inaugural exhibition will be held in the much-anticipated new Australian Pavilion, curated by Linda Michael, Deputy Director & Senior Curator at Heide Museum of Modern Art.

There is an escalating buzz around the new Australian art and architecture pavilion, designed by Denton Corker Marshall architects, which Elaine Chia, Australia Council Project Director, was charged with overseeing. Writing in the AFR Magazine’s March issue, editor Katrina Strickland notes, ‘The Denton Corker Marshal-designed pavilion is significant not just for Australia but for Venice. It will be the only 21st Century building in the Giardini, the public gardens in which there are 29 national pavilions plus one for the host country’. (AFR Magazine March 2015).

As Commissioner for the Australian exhibition, Simon Mordant AM and Catriona Mordant pledged $1 million towards the new pavilion, then doubled it to $2 million, and set out on a fundraising campaign to cover the shortfall between private and government funding. Thanks in large part to Mordant’s persuasive powers it was a successful campaign, funded by generous donors who, having visited previous Venice Biennale, hold a special affection for it.

In October, Angeline Collings and I will be taking a group of art lovers to Frieze London and Frieze Masters, finishing up with three exciting days at the Venice Biennale to see for ourselves Hall’s immersive installation and the fabulous new Australian pavilion perched beside one of the canals in the Giardini gardens.

Venice, you won’t disappoint.

Written by Jenny Garber, VIPArt Tours

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