Folkloric Modernism – Venice’s Giardini della Biennale and the Geopolitics of Architecture

Joel Robinson


This paper considers the national pavilions of the Venice Biennale, the largest and longest running exposition of contemporary art. It begins with an investigation of the post-fascist landscape of Venice’s Giardini della Biennale, as its built environment continued to evolve in the decades after 1945, with the construction of several new pavilions. With a view to exploring the architectural infrastructure of an event that has billed itself as ‘international’ from the first decade of the twentieth century, this paper asks how the mapping of national pavilions here might have changed to reflect the supposedly post-colonial and democratic aspirations of the West after the Second World War. Homing in on the nations that gained representation here in the 1950s and 60s, it looks at three of the more interesting architectural additions to the gardens, namely the pavilions for Israel, Canada and Brazil. These are used to raise questions about how national pavilions are mobilized ideologically, but also to explore broader questions about the geopolitical superstructure of the Biennale as an institution.

pavilion, Venice Biennale, modernism, nationalism, geopolitics, postcolonialist.

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Biographical note
Joel Robinson is a Research Affiliate in the Department of Art History at the Open University and an Associate Lecturer for the Open University in the East of England. His main interests are modern and contemporary art, architecture and landscape studies. He is the author of Life in Ruins: Architectural Culture and the Question of Death in the Twentieth Century (2007), which stemmed from his doctoral work in Art History at the University of Essex, and co-editor of a new anthology in art history titled Art and Visual Culture: A Reader (2012). Additionally, he is a freelance critic publishing in various magazines of contemporary art, and is Contributing Editor in London for Asian Art News and World Sculpture News.