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The Biennale between the two World Wars

In the period after the First World War, the Biennale showed an increasing interest towards the most innovative artistic trends, thanks to the new General Secretary Vittorio Pica, that had been interested in the Impressionists since 1908. In 1920 Paul Signac, the curator of the French Pavilion, exhibited 17 of his own works and other works by Cézanne, Seurat, Redon, Matisse, and Bonnard, whilst the Dutch Pavilion proposed a retrospective of Van Gogh, and the Swiss Pavilion, Hodler.

In 1922 Pica presented the first retrospective of Modigliani's work, and in that same year organised an exhibition of African sculpture, which both caused much controversy. The term "primitive" was used in a pejorative sense for African sculpture, whilst Modigliani's disorganised life was emphasised. However, in the second retrospective in 1930, there were no traces of such criticism. Furthermore, Vittorio Pica was able to impose his decision to exhibit six watercolours by Van Dongen, in spite of the opposition by the Board and of the new Mayor of Venice, Davide Giordano.

Meanwhile in 1920 Filippo Grimani had lost the title of Mayor of Venice and likewise the position of President of the Biennale. The Giordano Commitee, worried by the new daring artistic trends embraced by Pica, set up a Board of 7 members (becoming 8 in 1924 and 13 in 1926) to join the General Secretary. In 1926 , Pica was forced to resign for health reasons and Count Pietro Orsi became Mayor of Venice and President of the Biennale. He appointed the new General Secretary, Antonio Maraini. In 1928 the Archive of the Biennale was established under the name of the Historical Institute of Contemporary Art.