Scotland pauses involvement with Venice Biennale for review

Scotland is pausing its involvement with the world’s oldest contemporary art exhibition, the Venice Biennale, citing concerns over finance, planning and the environment.

Dating back to 1895, the Biennale is widely viewed as one of the foremost global cultural events and alternates between art and architecture.

The team behind Scotland’s involvement said there is no change to plans for the Scotland + Venice Architecture project, A Fragile Correspondence, taking place from May to November this year.

However, they announced a pause for 2024 to “allow for a period of reflection and review”.

Scotland has been involved in the Biennale since 2003 and its programme is run by the Scotland + Venice partnership of Creative Scotland, British Council, National Galleries of Scotland, Architecture and Design Scotland, V&A Dundee and the Scottish Government.

A spokeswoman for the partnership said: “This has been a difficult decision to make, especially given the project’s significant achievements over the last 20 years.

“However, in the present financial and planning environment it feels necessary to review the current model of delivery, and to consider the project’s position within the wider scope of international opportunities available to Scotland’s art and architecture communities.

“The decision also acknowledges the impact that the project has on the environment and the need to consider how it can be delivered more ethically and sustainably into the future.

Alberta Whittle installations
Still from Alberta Whittle’s film Lagareh – The Last Born (2022) (Cristiano Corte/NGS/PA)

“This isn’t a decision to withdraw from La Biennale, which remains an important international platform for contemporary art and architecture.”

The review is expected to get under way this summer.

Among the artists to have represented Scotland at the Biennale is Alberta Whittle, who has recently had two installations at the heart of her exhibition acquired for the nation by National Galleries of Scotland.

Entanglement Is More Than Blood (2022) and the film Lagareh – The Last Born (2022) were among the works the Barbadian-Scottish artist showed at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022.