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La Biennale

Ca' Giustinian

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At the beginning of 2009, the Biennale moved back to its historical headquarters at Ca’ Giustinian (San Marco), after a significant restoration that lasted 3 years, realised thanks to special funding from the City of Venice and from the “Legge Speciale”, and partly financed by the Biennale itself.

A 15th-century gothic Palazzo, one of the richest and most admired in the history of Venice, Ca’ Giustinian overlooks the Bacino di San Marco right at the beginning of the Grand Canal. Its surface covers 6100 square metres, 5600 of which covered and 500 of terraces.

Originally a patrician residence, then a renowned 19th century hotel loved by artists (such as Verdi, Proust, Turner), it became the official headquarters of the Biennale (as well as of municipal tourism offices) in the aftermath of the 2nd World War, and it is now a completely restored building.

Its features, its position and structure enabled the Biennale (that today occupies its entire surface) to use it not only for strictly administration purposes: it aims to be an “open house” for anyone, a place where the Biennale and the city relate to each other, a gathering point for meetings and events.
On the ground floor is an exhibition space named Portego, for exhibits concerning the valorisation and the display of works and materials from the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC).
 
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On the same floor, on the front façade, the old Sala degli Specchi (overlooking the Bacino) has become L’ombra del Leone, a cafeteria and also an open salon for the city, whose aim is to host cultural events and gatherings with well-known personalities from the arts and cultural environments. In order to complete these spaces, a pontoon known as Campiello d’acqua was built in front of them, thanks to the shareholding of the City of Venice, to promote people’s involvement in such activities.
 
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At the end of August 2010, in conjunction with the opening of the 12th International Architecture Exhibition, the restoration of Ca’ Giustinian will be completed with the recovering of the Sala delle Colonne (550 square meters), dating back to the 30’s, a unique place for both its structural and architectural features, that will be ultimately intended as a flexible space for conferences, meetings, workshops, exhibitions, with particular regard to live performance-related activities.

At the end of this restoration, which also includes the realisation of a shop/design lab on the lower floor, Ca’ Giustinian will reach the status of a multifunctional centre, capable of hosting permanent activities, according to the Biennale scheduled exhibition programme for the Palazzo delle Esposizioni at the Giardini.


Historical Hints
Ca' Giustinian is the result of the union of two different buildings: Giustinian (1474) and Badoer-Tiepolo. During the 16th century, they were combined in one, thanks to the internal adjustment of masonries and attics. The famous leader Giovanni dalle Bande Nere stayed there, when he was working for the Serenissima Republic.
In 1750 it passed from the Giustinian family to the Morosinis. In 1817 it was acquired by Arnold Marseille, who turned it into a “Hotel de l’Europe”, that hosted among its guests:
Giuseppe Verdi, who used to occupy a room with a private drawning room and a piano, where his operas Ernani (1843) and Rigoletto (1851) were partly written.
He then supervised their first performances at the nearby Fenice, as well as those of Attila (1846), Traviata (1853) and Simon Boccanegra (1857); Théophile Gautier wrote some chapters of his Voyage en Italie (1852) there; William Turner realised some paintings of the Bacino di San Marco in his three stays in Venice between 1820 and 1840; Marcel Proust stayed there in his journey to Venice round the turn of the 20th century; François-René de Chateaubriand.

Acquired in the 30’s of the 20th century by the City of Venice, whose plan was to settle its casino there, the palace underwent several major changes, as the addition of the Sala delle Colonne, realised on the first floor, facing San Moisè Church. Right after the war, it became the headquarters of the Biennale as well as of the municipal tourism offices.
In the 50’-70’s the Sala delle Colonne was intended as an open space for conferences, concerts, cultural and political events, on an almost daily basis. The last floor hosted the city’s cinema club until the end of the 70’s.