The Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Canada doubles up between the official participation at the Arsenale and the re-opening of the restored pavilion at the Giardini.

Padiglione Canada, 2018. Photo Andrea Pertoldeo

Quite exceptionally (as President Paolo Baratta also pointed out in a friendly manner) Canada presents two projects for the Biennale 2018: as the official participation dedicated to Freespace is hosted at the Arsenale (it’s the exhibition “Unceded: Voices of the Land”, curated by Douglas Cardinal), the pavilion itself stands out as the protagonist at the Giardini.

The building, designed by BBPR, inaugurated in 1958 and closed in 2014 because of its state of disrepair, has been re-opened to the public on May 24. The accurate conservative restauration has been carried out by “heir” Alberico Barbiano di Belgiojoso, who certainly proves to be much more skilled at this juncture than at some of his recent, bleak performances in the field of newly-built architectures (just a few years ago his infamous “cantilevering” palazzina in the center of Milano caused a huge scandal).

Inside the pavilion, Réjean Legault, associate professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), supported by Cammie McAtee, sets up a show narrating its history in four chapters: the commission by the National Gallery of Canada to BBPR, for the design of an exhibition building to be funded with a small portions of the post-war financial aids, sent from North America to Italy; the project by the Milanese firm, encircling the two existing trees, which the soprintendenza judged as untouchable; the life of the pavilion, which hosted forty exhibitions in sixty years; to conclude, the restoration process.

“Canada Builds/Rebuilds a Pavilion” is in all respects an architecture history exhibition, an unexpected and certainly a little unusual presence within the frame of the Biennale, devoted to news rather than retrospective. Still, for all lovers of the genre, it is a not-to-be-missed stop. Organized in just six months, its main merit is to make available to the public for the very first time an impressive quantity of previously unreleased materials, discovered thanks to a meticulous and challenging research path. “The pavilion’s drawings were kept at the IUAV’s archives, but the photographs of the past events were scattered through dozens of collections” says Legault, who continues: “we found the images of thirty-nine exhibitions, and we just miss one!”. At the Biennale 2018, a visit to the finely restored Canada Pavilion is imperative; inside it, “Canada Builds/Rebuilds a Pavilion” is a chance to get a further insight, which each visitor shall choose whether to get or not.

Canada Builds/Rebuilds a Pavilion
Réjean Legault
Giardini della Biennale di Venezia
Opening dates:
26 May – 25 November 2018
Sestiere Castello, Venezia

Special Biennale

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