Venice Biennale The Italian Pavilion

Vice Versa brings together 14 artists inspired by philosopher Giorgio Agamben's "diametrically linked concepts"
Piero Golia, Untitled (Bus) (2008)
Piero Golia, Untitled (Bus) (2008)




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The Venice Biennale, which opens later this month, wouldn't be complete without some high-brow theoretical puff, so don't fret if you don't grasp the ideas behind the Italian Pavilion's exhibition, entitled Vice Versa.

It picks up on a concept introduced by Giorgio Agamben in his book Categorie Italiane. Studi di Poetica (1996), in which the philosopher maintained that in order to interpret Italian culture, we must identify a "series of diametrically linked concepts capable of describing its underlying characteristics - binomials such as tragedy/comedy, architecture/vagueness and speed/lightness thus become original keys for reading the fundamental works and artists of our cultural history."


Marcello Maloberti, Un Certo Presentimento (2005)

Marcello Maloberti, Un Certo Presentimento (2005)

Got it? In truth Italy does seem to be a place of dualities and contrasts; it's the ancient cradle of Europe, and also one of its newest countries; home to Futurism, and the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi has dwelt on this, drawning together installations, sculptures, paintings and performances from 14 Italian artists, pairing them up in a series of seven rooms, in this idiosyncratic investigation of of the country.

The work of Fabio Mauri and Francesco Arena is used to examine the relationship between personal and collective experiences of history; Marcello Maloberti and Flavio Favelli "chip away at the boundaries between autobiography and collective imagination"; Sislej Xhafa and Piero Golia examine both comedy and tragedy; while Luca Vitone and Luigi Ghirri will examine how the meanings of landscape vascilate between one's vision and memory.


Flavio Favelli, Lettiga (2005)

Flavio Favelli, Lettiga (2005)

Highbrow themes aside, a more pressing aspect of current affairs has imposed itself onto the pavilion. Funding for the Italian involvement in the biennale has been slashed, and the pavilion's organisers have launched a crowd-funding drive to make up the shortfall. The Art Newspaper reports that they have raised more than €140,000 so far. Good to see that, in this real-world example, The Italian Pavilion has found a near equal and opposing force for European austerity.

To find out more about the pavilion, which opens at the beginning of next month along with the rest of The Biennale, go here. For more on Fabio Mauri's work, consider our Cream 3 contemporary art volume. And for the best possible overview of bienials through the years check out our peerless new book Bienials and Beyond: Exhibitions That Made Art History


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  • Biennials and Beyond
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  • Biennials and Beyond
Biennials and Beyond documents 25 of the most significant and pioneering exhibitions that took place between 1962 and 2002. Some shows have been selected for their innovative installation, others for the impact they had on the reception of contemporary art either globally or in a given country, and yet others for the role they played in advancing significant trends in recent art. Together they form an exceptional sourcebook for anyone interested in contemporary art, the history of exhibitions and curatorial practice.

Within the past decade, the history of art exhibitions has become an important area of academic and critical inquiry. Exhibitions are hubs of interaction within the art world, the places where artists, dealers, critics, and collectors come together, and where the newest art first comes before the public. Biennials and Beyond is the first book to position a range of contemporary exhibitions in the context of art history, providing installation photographs, exhibition floor plans and critical texts from the time, as well as an expansive account of recent exhibition history by Bruce Altshuler.

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Salon to Biennial
Art Cities of the Future
Defining Contemporary Art
Filippo Brunelleschi

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