A Private Museums Guide to La Biennale di Venezia

With the Venice Biennale now in full swing, Lund Humphries Marketing Intern Fabian Florea reflects on the exhibition offerings of private museums in Venice... 

An extract from Georgina Adam’s book The Rise and Rise of the Private Art Museum expertly outlines the emergence of brand-name museums and cultural foundations owned by some of the world’s most successful fashion houses:

‘Among the most spectacular of today’s new private museums are those built by fashion and luxury goods groups, notably Bernard Arnault’s Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) and Kering, belonging to François Pinault. This industry is dominated by just these two vastly rich groups, who own a plethora of brands – and have given the world a number of private museums, including the Fondazione Prada in Milan, as well as the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.’

As the Venice Biennale continues its 59th instalment, all three of these institutions have used their Venetian locations to exhibit art throughout the duration of the biennial. The wildly different exhibitions outline the cultural and creative directions of the foundations and offer viewers a wide range of experiences, outside of the main Biennale pavilions and shows.


Fondazione Prada’s Biennale installation, Human Brains, is not a traditional art installation in any sense -- owing to the foundation’s self-assumed role of a cultural institution rather than simply an arts-focused exhibition space. Human Brains explores aspects of its eponymous subject-matter, the human brain itself, through practices in the science and humanities fields. This installation, covering three floors of the Ca’ Corner della Regina, Fondazione Prada’s Venetian location, offers a momentary respite from the wealth of artistic display throughout the city during a time like the Biennale. This Biennale installation, curated by Udo Kittleman (formerly of the National Gallery in Berlin), explores the visual side to this philosophical exploration through traditional means, arranging it in the fashion of a grandiose historical exhibition where the viewer is invited to engage with the objects and make of them what they will.

Fondation Louis Vuitton has approached the Biennale with a Katharina Grosse (see Gregory Volk's monograph on Grosse  HERE) installation in their space near the Piazza San Marco. The exhibition has been specially curated and commissioned for the space, and Grosse has created these works concurrently with her much larger-scale installation in the foundation’s Parisian headquarters. The works aim to celebrate Venice itself, intending to transport the viewer into an environment mimicking the city’s waterways and create a sense of aquatic movement within the interior of the Espace Louis Vuitton. The colours and materials chosen for these works also contribute to the foundation’s ode to Venice, with opaque materials in colours replicating those of the city’s renowned stained glass. Here, Grosse’s attention to texture, feeling and experience within her monumental works shines through and leads the viewer into a microcosm of the Venetian artistic experience.

The Pinault Collection boasts two permanent locations in Venice, the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana, therefore visitors to the Biennale can expect a lot from them. The Punta della Dogana presents a retrospective of the entire career of Bruce Nauman, one of America’s most renowned visual artists and a veteran Biennale contributor (and winner of its Golden Lion award in 2009). This exhibition brings together works spanning decades of Nauman’s career, with many featured in established institutions as well as various unseen and newly-finished works. The central feature of the exhibition is a series of videos created in the 1960s and revisited recently as the artist makes use of current technologies, essentially unlocking the limitations of his prior attempts and realising the artist’s full range of creative aspiration. A second solo exhibition, installed until 2023 at the Palazzo Grassi, exhibits over 100 works, spanning Marlene Dumas’ career from 1984 to the present. Entitled, ‘open-end’, the installation aims to exhibit the evolving path of the South African artist’s career and leaves room for interpretation in any future works. Viewers are invited to explore the Dumas installation, which vividly explores aspects of the human experience, at their own pace and immerse themselves in the physicality and tenderness of her work.


The phenomenon of private museums has meant a dramatic change in the image of art collections across the world, and this is thoroughly explored in Georgina Adam’s book, The Rise and Rise of the Private Art Museum. This highly acclaimed book is an authoritative source on the topic of private museums and offers a clear and accessible understanding of the phenomenon.

- Fabian Florea, May 2022


Find out more about Georgina Adam's book HERE. And see more from the Hot Topics in the Art World series HERE


You may also like Rafal Niemojewski's New Directions in Contemporary Art volume: Biennials: The Exhibitions We Love to Hate. More info HERE.


Images: 1&2) Fondazione Prada Venezia - Human Brains - Photo: Marco Cappelletti. 3) Installation view of Katharina Grosse Apollo Apollo at Espace Louis Vuitton Venezia. Photography: Jens Ziehe.