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Dutch entry to 2021 Venice Art Biennale takes a radically different approach

In 2021, the Netherlands will leave the Rietveld Pavilion, its usual home in the Giardini at the Venice Art Biennale. Instead, it is temporarily stepping off the main stage of the world’s largest international visual arts event and will be exhibiting elsewhere in the city. The selection procedure for the Netherlands’ entry is also different. This time there is no open call, and an international jury has selected a shortlist of curators and artists. This one-off approach breaks with a long tradition and marks a reevaluation of the entire process surrounding the Dutch entry. A radical move by Eelco van der Lingen, director of the Mondriaan Fund which organizes the entry.

Innovation is essential at an event such as the Biennale according to van der Lingen: ‘It’s good to deviate from a pattern from time to time, without negating what we have done in the past or what we will be doing in the future. By marking a break with the past, we can recalibrate and create a new starting point.’ Since 1954, the Netherlands presents its entry for the Venice Art Biennale biannually in the Rietveld Pavilion, a modernistic building located in the Giardini – where various countries have their national pavilions. Now, Van der Lingen is breaking with this tradition. “It’s often been said that the Giardini reflects a former balance of powers, but no country gives up its place on the main stage of the biennale. At the same time, it’s good for us to step out of our comfort zone for once and explore the freedom outside the walls of the pavilion. This also gives the Dutch entry the opportunity to come up with a plan that doesn’t need to take into account the context of Rietveld, the pavilion, or the Giardini.”

Estonian entry in Dutch pavilion
For the 2021 edition the Mondriaan Fund has invited Estonia to use the Dutch Rietveld Pavilion at the heart of the Giardini. Estonia has been exhibiting at the event since 1997. However, due to the fact that since 1996 no new pavilions can be built in the Giardini, young nations cannot gain access to this centre of the biennale. Estonia’s exhibition will be organized by the Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA), which will rent the building from the Foundation Rietveld Pavilion Venice. Previously, the CCA organized successful exhibitions at various locations in the city during the biennale.

The Mondriaan Fund
The Mondriaan Fund, the public fund for visual art and cultural heritage in the Netherlands, is responsible for the Dutch entry. The presentation is financed from the international budget that the fund receives from the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science.

The biennale begins in May 2021. As soon as the procedure surrounding the 2021 entry is complete, the fund will announce who will represent the Dutch entry, the members of the international jury and the alternative location.