5 Design Hotspots at this year’s Venice Biennale

Giardini & Lido

There is no shortage of exhibitions for those looking for a bit of design among the art at this year’s Venice Biennale. These five shows are the best places to discover both local and international design in the city, on the Biennale grounds and beyond.

This chandelier by Nacho Carbonell titled Inside a Forest Cloud seems to float in the center of the palazzo’s courtyard. (Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery)

Rick Owens and Michele Lamy’s installation of punching-bag sculptures asks “What are we fighting for?” (Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery)

Ethereal glass bubbles by the Verhoeven Twins. (Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery)

Dysfunctional by Carpenters Workshop Gallery

Pushing the boundaries of art and design is Carpenter Workshop Gallery’s Dysfunctional, which includes 50 works by the gallery’s esteemed stable of designers. Viewed within the context of the Ca’ d’Oro’s Italian masterworks, the exhibition invites visitors to question the historical relationship between form and function. Some of the pieces are inspired by the city of Venice itself, such as Virgil Abloh’s sinking seating and Ingrid Donat’s golden sideboard, the latter of which celebrates Byzantine and Renaissance art and the former, a commentary on the city’s rising sea levels.

Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro, Cannaregio, 3932, May 8 to November 24

A 1959 Olivetti Audit 513 greets visitors on the main floor. (Courtesy Anna Talley)

A selection of mid-century typewriters and calculators on display in the second-floor gallery. (Courtesy Anna Talley)

One of the earliest Olivetti typewriters, a 1926 M20 model. (Courtesy Anna Talley)

Negozio Olivetti 

For those looking for more of a historical bent, Carlo Scarpa’s 1958 showroom for Olivetti typewriters is a modernist’s dream. In the words of founder Adriano Olivetti, the space was meant to be the “business card” of the company. Aurisina marble, rosewood, and African teak are combined with traditional Venetian mosaics and stonework to create a space that is both contemporary and harmonious with its situation in the arcade of the Procuratie Vecchie around St. Mark’s Square. The showroom is preserved exactly how it stood in 1958, with models of Olivetti’s most famous midcentury typewriters on display in the two galleries on the second floor.

Piazza San Marco 101, Procuratie Vecchie (Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00am to 6:30pm)

Wearable Media (USA), Sound Interactive Lightweight Coat, 2018. (Eric Chang)

Luis Paco Bockelmann, Guillermo Whittembury Castillo, Kevin Rouff and Joris Olde Rikkert, Red Mud, as part of the Royal College of Art (GBR) - Design Products students' project. (Kevin Rouff)

Peter Ghyczy (NLD), chair (S02) Campus. Initial design 1986, redesigned in 2018. (Courtesy GHYCZY)

Venice Design

Venice Design is a concentrated injection of international contemporary design into the traditional Venetian craft scene. With multidisciplinary projects ranging from fashion to furniture, there’s a bit of something for everyone. The works explore new processes, like large-scale 3D printing, as well as contemporary issues, such as climate change and personal identity. Though Venice Design features around 60 designers from 30 different countries, it doesn’t lose sight of its local creators. The exhibition is accompanied by a map which lists 42 independent designers and craftspeople working within Venice, encouraging visitors to discover how design has always been a part of the city’s culture.

Palazzo Michiel, Strada Nuova 4391,  May 11 to November 24

Rochefort’s cups are alchemic combinations of glass and ceramic. (Francesco Allegretto, Courtesy Van Doren Wexler and Caterina Tognon Gallery)

Installation view with Rochefort’s Nightcrawler (2019) and Lilly (2019) craters in the foreground. (Francesco Allegretto, Courtesy Van Doren Wexler and Caterina Tognon Gallery)

Three 2019 ceramic-glass cups. (Francesco Allegretto, Courtesy Van Doren Wexler and Caterina Tognon Gallery)

Caterina Tognon Gallery

Caterina Tognon represents the most innovative contemporary glass artisans working in Venice and around the world. Currently on view is COLLAPSE, which features the work of LA-based artist Brian Rochefort. Rochefort’s glazed stoneware and glass pieces evoke natural forms, mimicking the texture of sand or the jewel tones of a lagoon. His large craters are most the spectacular, having all the “energy of a volcanic explosion,” describes Tognon.

San Marco 2158, COLLAPSE May 8 to July 27

Visitors are greeted with a projection of archival video onto a PVC screen resembling strips of negative film. (Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia)

The artist selected every tenth roll of film from the archives out of 103 and picked another 10 at random to include in the installation. (Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia)

Visitors are invited to sit and listen to Lewandowska’s audio piece inside of a curved screen structure designed by Studio Abroad. (Andrea Avezzù, Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia)

It’s About Time by V&A Pavillion of Applied Arts

In the Arsenale, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s special project at the Pavilion of Applied Arts, It’s About Time, is an installation by Polish-born, London-based artist, Marysia Lewandowska. Documentary footage from a 1978 film about the V&A (which shows mostly men parading through the halls in suits and ties) is paired with an audio recording of Italian women discussing their role in the founding of the first Biennale in the 19th century. The piece is a powerful evocation of the past and its echoes in archival materials and present-day events.

Arsenale, Open 10 am to 6 pm, May 8 to November 24.

Header image: Studio Drift’s Fragile Future chandelier installed next to a work by Mantegna in the Ca’d’ Oro. (Courtesy Carpenters Workshop Gallery)