The Venice Biennale is regarded as one of the most prestigious cultural events in the international calendar. Its history dates back to 1895; since 1998, it has sought to place new work in a relationship with the past and promote a stronger dialogue with the viewer. The Biennale has expanded exponentially to eighty-eight national pavilions, shifting its historic North American and Eurocentric axis to embrace an infinitely wider cultural and political agenda. It is no surprise that the Holy See participates for the first time in the 55th International Art Exhibition (1 June – 24 November 2013) with a pavilion of works inspired by the first eleven chapters of Genesis. There are ten new countries this year, each paying a fee of 20,000 euros plus tax for the privilege: Angola, the Bahamas, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Ivory Coast, Kosovo, Kuwait, the Maldives, Paraguay and the remote Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu with a population of 9,847. Like Venice, Tuvalu faces the threat of rising sea levels. It is banking on art to get some action on climate change after science and politics have failed. The Venice Biennale has become a fast moving turntable, a carousel of conflicting geo-political agendas which only the strongest artist and curator can ride with impunity. Sifting out the art from state propaganda and the dead hand of the largely US-driven art market is the litmus test of disinterested critical judgement. It is a challenge few critics meet.

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