The Biennale has remained an indisputable focal point of artistic achievement through the last century and up to the present. Initiated on April 19th, 1893, as part of the municipality of Venice’s contribution to the silver anniversary of the marriage of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy, the city proposed to hold a national biennale. Additionally, this exhibition coincided with the celebrations of the newly formed Italian state. Shortly after its establishment the structure of the exhibition was reorganized from a national exhibition to an international event. The layout of the exhibition in the 20th century was characteristic of how the space was used as it was influenced by the Salon exhibition styles in Paris. The Biennale was set up with a central exhibition building consisting of connected galleries of international, geopolitical groups, and national themed rooms. Gradually the character of the exhibition changed as special commissioners were appointed to prepare national shows. This led to a progressively stronger emphasis on national identity in later Biennales.
“1st International Exhibition Poster.” 1895. (Photograph courtesy of La Biennale website.)