New Australian Pavilion opens at Venice Biennale

Photo by Angus MordantThe new Denton Corker Marshall designed Australian Pavilion in Venice’s historic Biennale precinct was officially opened this week by Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts, and welcomed by Paolo Baratta, President of the Venice Biennale.

Built with a $1 million contribution from the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, and a staggering $6.5million in donations from over 80 private Australian benefactors, the Minister said the pavilion project was a highly successful yet ambitious example of what public and private partnerships can achieve.

The Venice Biennale is widely considered to be the most prestigious and important event on the international contemporary arts calendar, and Australia holds one of only 29 coveted permanent sites in the renowned Venice Biennale exhibition gardens.

The new Australian Pavilion was built to replace a temporary exhibition space designed by Philip Cox and shipped to Venice in 1988. The first 21st century pavilion to be built in the Biennale precinct is a two level concrete and steel structure, clad in granite, designed as a white box within a black box.

Australian Commissioner and lead donor for the new pavilion Mr Simon Mordant AM said:  “We contribute to a new chapter in the history of the national pavilions in Venice, with this new contemporary pavilion.”

Mr Mordant, who contributed $2million towards the project with his wife Catriona Mordant, said a strong vision for the new Australian Pavilion has been realised with the Denton Corker Marshall design. “We asked for a building that was distinctive…durable, resilient, and breathtakingly simple.  It was key that artists could claim the space.  The architects have delivered this brief perfectly.”

Pavilion donor Cate Blanchett, who opened the 2005 Australian exhibition on the site of the Australian Pavilion, spoke on behalf of over 80 families who supported the project. “This bold building speaks to Australia’s cultural ambition.  It reflects not how the world may see Australia, but how many Australians see ourselves, as a modern, forward looking nation,” she said.

Ms Blanchett congratulated the Australia Council for the Arts and the architects on realizing a new home for Australia in Venice.  “The Venice Biennale is a place to engage in the international dialogue and to contribute to the conversations and trends of our time.  Many Australians have supported this project because they believe, like I, that art is important to our future.”

For the past three decades Australia’s presentations at the Venice Biennale has been supported and managed by the Australia Council for the Arts.

Mr Rupert Myer AM, Chair of the Australia Council thanked the Australian Government and individual donors for their support. Mr Myer particularly acknowledged the drive and vision of Simon and Catriona Mordant in leading the project, and the Australia Council project team for realising the project on time and on budget.

“This is a significant part of Australia’s arts infrastructure which directly faces international audiences and some of the world’s most influential artists, writers, curators, collectors and gallerists. This building gives greater visibility to our current and future generations of artists, and amplification to their ideas and motivations.” Mr Myer said.

Renowned Australian artist Fiona Hall has inaugurated the new pavilion with the exhibition Wrong Way Time, which runs until 22 November 2015. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Rupert Myer AM, Simon Mordant AM and Tony Grybowski – photo by Angus Mordant (courtesy of the Australia Council)