Pope Puts Pavillion in Venice Fair

Newly-elected Pope Francis I has authorized the Vatican to have its own contemporary-art pavilion at the 2013 Venice Art Biennale, a first in its 84-year history as an independent state, Biennale organizers said at a news briefing in London.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network will be visiting all the art pavilions in this year's Venice Biennalle.

The artist(s) representing the Holy See will be announced in the next few weeks, said Biennale President Paolo Baratta. The Vatican is one of 10 new participant countries (out of a total of 88) in the Biennale, the sprawling international exhibition held in Venice every two years.

Baratta was asked for details of the Vatican pavilion.

“The theme should be concerning the First Book of Genesis: from creation to the Tower of Babel,” Baratta told journalists at the Italian Cultural Institute in London yesterday.

“The curator of the pavilion will hold a press conference in the coming weeks,” he said. “The Holy See has been engaged in a few other tasks these days.”

Baratta said the Vatican pavilion would, by coincidence, be next to Argentina’s: in the Sale d’Armi section of the Arsenale, a complex of former barracks currently being revamped.

Cultural Courage

He said intial talks with Vatican cultural officials began long ago, and termed their pavilion opening an “act of courage.” The new Pope has reaffirmed the Vatican's mission of cultural outreach by authorizing an art exhbition.

Attending the briefing was British Council Director of Visual Arts Andrea Rose, who chooses the U.K. pavilion artist every two years. She said Vatican cultural officials sought her advice on the Biennale during a visit to London last year.

“They said they wanted to put into public view the fact that there were other things beyond mere country boundaries, political state boundaries, that united people,” Rose said, given the Vatican’s wish to represent “the community of Catholics.”

When the officials requested a list of artists, Rose asked if they had to be Catholic, and the answer was “absolutely not.” Nor was there a will to use Church properties in Venice as venues. “They said no, we don’t want to use any of them, because that’s too associated with religion: We want a white cube space.”

“What they primarily wanted to know was how much it costs, and I said, well, quite a lot, actually,” said Rose.

Brooklyn-Born artist, Sarah Sze, will take over the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale. She was selected by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which promotes cultural exchanges worldwide.