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Connor Gaulke: Venice Biennale

Researching Art Archives in Italy
The Historical Archives of Contemporary Art, 1931.

For over 120 years the Venice Biennale has been one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. Established in 1895, the Biennale Art Exhibition has an attendance today of over 600,000 visitors.

  • Visited the Venice Art Biennale
  • Explored numerous exhibitions throughout Venice
  • Consulted the Peggy Guggenheim Library and Archive
  • Consulted the Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee (The Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts)
  • Translated primary archival sources from Italian to English
  • Volunteered at the Stirling Pavilion of Books
  • Interviewed the Venice Biennale Curator-Christine Macel
  • Interviewed exhibiting artists: Antoni Miralda, Joan Rabscall, Dorothée Selz, Anri Sala, Lee Mingwei, Martin Cordiano, Katherine Nuñez, Issay Rodriguez, and Taus Makhacheva

The experience of visiting numerous art institutions and their corresponding archives throughout Venice was a life changing experience. Being able to travel to the Biennale in person and create relationships with international artists, curators, librarians, and archivists was an essential part of my education in the arts. Through this independent research trip, I was able to gather more information about contemporary art archiving.

The corresponding archives of the Biennale, The Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts, is an important collection for any art enthusiast. Within the archive are documents, correspondences, and manifestos from 1890-1935 that outline the history and founding of the Biennale archive. The process of contemporary art archiving is an idea that stemmed from one individual. Domenico Varagnolo founded the Biennale archive and his influence on contemporary art archiving has influenced not only art but also architecture, cinema, dance, music, and theatre. Exploring Varagnolo’s handwritten manifestos on art archiving from the early 20th century and discussing contemporary art archiving with the 2017 Biennale Curator, Christine Macel, allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the vast richness of contemporary art archives and their role in society today.