Venice national pavilions

Iva Lulashi, painting in Albanian pavilion, Venice, 2024

The national pavilions offer, more than the Biennale’s main exhibition ‘Foreigner Everyhwere’, the excitement of seeing a cross section of contemporary art, layered in conception and with relevance for what is happening now. The various presentations are not necessarily connected, as every country had its own path to Venice, selecting one or multiple artists. Therefore, it is hard to discuss this part of the Biennale as one exhibition. However, what unites all exhibitors is their platform on the global stage provided by Venice. The question of how artists approach this opportunity and whether they can handle it, becomes part of the quality of the work. Below are ten pavilions that made a lasting impression on the author, while overt political commentaries are avoided and instead imaginative approaches are presented, tailored to the specific site of the building, the city or the Biennale.


Germany chose two artists, Ersan Mondtag and Yael Bartana, for the pavilion who both make a firm appearance, albeit without their contributions complementing each other. I found Bartana’s Light to the Nations to be the most captivating. The centerpiece, Farewell, is a 15-minute-long science-fiction film depicting people performing a ritual dance in nature before they leave Earth in a spaceship to save themselves and humanity. This Generation Ship has large round cylinders, each representing a different sphere of life such as learning, living and healing. Its form is based on the sephirot diagram, the main image of the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystic tradition. The film presents messianic narrative that, as is often the case in Bartana’s work, teeters on the brink of Romantic kitsch while closely resembling a religious movement in its aspirations and aesthetics. Her work exudes controlled pathos, grand gestures, and technological precision. The urgency of the science-fiction narrative lies in the question that may easily arise when reading the news today: Isn’t it time to consider an escape? Or perhaps more profoundly: Is escape even still possible?


In the Albanian pavilion, Iva Lulashi presents her works on a 1:1 scale model of her apartment in Milan, recreated within the Arsenale. The walls are arranged accordingly, the furniture and windows left out, providing a white-cube setting for a series of paintings united under the overarching theme Love as a Glass of Water. The figurative paintings show scenes of desire, the moment before or after making love, and other experiences, from a female perspective. Part of the works are based on erotic or pornographic footage that is then modified during the painting process. The domestic floor plan delivers a shelter where the works can have the intimacy and focus that the artist wishes to be the context for her work. At times this creates the feeling of looking at something you are not supposed to see, as with the painting of two female figures and a male, all naked and looking down, presented in a narrow tiled room that at the artist’s home must be the bathroom. A perfect example of how the presentation is part of the painting’s meaning.


The Croatian pavilion stands out as one of the most endearing spaces at the Biennale, serving not only as an exhibition venue but also as an artist studio for Vlatka Horvat, who invites artists from around the world to contribute small art pieces. However, these contributions come with a unique condition: they must be personally couriered by someone planning to travel to Venice, eliminating the need for additional shipping, and highlighting the environmental concerns associated with large-scale events like the Biennale. The works received by Horvat are displayed temporarily alongside her own pieces inspired by walks through the city where she captures memorable sights and moments and reimagines them through collage and drawing on photography. What Horvat achieves is a space of concentration, where looking at works and discussing them happen on an intimate, almost domestic scale. This contrasts in a positive sense with the spectacle of the Biennale, with its long queues and dense exhibition areas, plus the loud drums of major galleries hosting so-called collateral events across the city. Here, art-making takes on a more personal and improvised dimension, emphasizing the interconnectedness of artists. Moreover, the rotating display of works includes contributions from artists not officially representing a country.

Read the full report, with a selection of 10 pavilions, on Arterritory