The Canada Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia undergoes $3M restoration as Canadians mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation

OTTAWA, April 27, 2017 /CNW/ - On the occasion of Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017, and the 60th anniversary of the Canada Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia in 2018, the National Gallery of Canada in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada Foundation has begun a major $3-million restoration of the deteriorating Canada Pavilion – an important architectural landmark of designated heritage interest in the historic Giardini di Castello.

The decision to restore the pavilion was based on extensive research into the building's history and a desire to both restore the Pavilion and site to its former beauty, and to introduce updated facility improvements for the display of contemporary art. This multi-year project is organized with the exceptional support and collaboration of La Biennale di Venezia and the Venice Superintendent for Architectural Heritage. The Canadian Embassy in Rome has also worked closely with the Gallery on this legacy initiative which celebrates six decades of Canadian-Italian friendship.

Originally commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and designed by Enrico Peressutti of the renowned architectural Studio BBPR in Milan in 1957, the Canada Pavilion is now being restored by architect Alberico Barbiano di Belgiojoso (heir to the BBPR studio and son of another of BBPR's original architects, Lodovico Barbiano de Belgiojoso) working in close cooperation with architect Troels Brun from M & B Studio and Canadian architect Gordon Filewych of onebadant. 

Canada's first permanent international pavilion for the display of art,  BBPR's brick, glass, wood and steel design is shaped like a nautilus shell with a tapered octagonal column at its centre that supports the impressive spiral of roof beams. The pavilion responded profoundly to the surrounding historical gardens of the Giardini di Castello at the time and fully integrates two large live trees within its form. The building is an important architectural monument to issues of national identity in architecture during difficult years following the end of World War II and the emergence of Canada's first cultural presence on the world stage.

The redesign of the landscape surrounding the Canada Pavilion is undertaken within the context of a larger Giardini renewal project begun in 2013, under the leadership and direction of La Biennale di Venezia. At the invitation of the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian landscape architect and Order of Canada recipient, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, and Bryce Gauthier of Enns Gauthier Landscape Architects, are working closely with La Biennale di Venezia and the Venice Superintendent for Architectural Heritage on a vision for the Canada Pavilion's surrounding landscape including a new pathway along the side of South Antonio Hill. One of the major exterior features will be a new platform to highlight the beautiful view of the Laguna Veneta, whilst seamlessly providing outdoor space that can accommodate performance and artistic intervention.

For the upcoming Canada Pavilion exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 2017, artist Geoffrey Farmer working with guest curator, Kitty Scott, Carol and Morton Rapp Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, will present an exhibition that re-envisages the potential of the space and invites viewers to reflect on this unique moment in the building's history.

Over the course of 60 years, the Canada Pavilion has been subject to deterioration, which has affected the building's façade and structure. An analysis of the site and structural survey has established that several components of the pavilion can be restored on site, while others must be disassembled and restored in specialized laboratories. In addition, the project includes a seismic retrofit, a particularly important feature in view of a structure's several interconnected elements. The first steps of the pavilion's restoration are already underway, including the removal of the doors and glass on the building's façade and part of the roof, for exploratory research, leaving a structure that is temporarily more open to the exterior.

Restoration work, suspended during the International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2017 will resume in December 2017. The Canada Pavilion, restored to its original 1957 design, will be officially revealed at the Biennale di Architettura of 2018.

Funding for the project has been provided by the National Gallery of Canada's Distinguished Patron Reesa Greenberg.

Karen Colby-Stothart, CEO of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation said, "We are incredibly grateful for our Italian partners and their exceptional collaboration and generosity in the overall restoration and landscape renewal strategy for the Canada Pavilion. We deeply appreciate their dedication in helping us bring this heritage building of great cultural significance and our wonderful corner of the historic Giardini to a new level of function and beauty." 

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander noted: "The vision for the southern portion of the Giardini is to reclaim a swath of the underutilized and overgrown area around the pavilions and to replace it with a new landscape that all visitors to the Giardini may enjoy. Our careful study of the site has informed our basic approach, which is to pursue an accessible, sustainable and beautiful design that makes a very minimal impact upon the site while preserving the heritage character of both the Canadian Pavilion and the historic Giardini."

Marc Mayer, Director of the National Gallery of Canada said, "The Canada Pavilion has offered a unique opportunity to present some of Canada's most remarkable artists to the world, including Jean-Paul Riopelle, Alex Colville, Michael Snow, Janet Cardiff, Rebecca Belmore, Steven Shearer, Shary Boyle, and the artist collective, BGL, to name just the firsts who come to mind. With the restoration of its fine historical building and the rejuvenation of its surrounding gardens, the Canada Pavilion will provide Canadian artists with a most dignified exhibition space."


About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st centuries, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research center dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @gallerydotca

About the National Gallery of Canada Foundation
The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to supporting the National Gallery of Canada in fulfilling its mandate. By fostering strong philanthropic partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada's visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally. The blend of public support and private philanthropy empowers the Gallery to preserve and interpret Canada's visual arts heritage. The Foundation welcomes present and deferred gifts for special projects and endowments. To learn more about the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, visit 

About the Canada Council for the Arts
The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada's national public arts funder. We champion creative freedom and innovation and invest in artistic excellence so that Canadians may enjoy and participate in a rich cultural life, and so that Canadian artists may be celebrated at home and abroad. We also conduct research, convene activities and work with Canadian and international partners to advance the sector and help embed the arts more deeply in communities across Canada and around the world. We are responsible for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO which promotes the values and programs of UNESCO to contribute to a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable future for Canadians. The Canada Council Art Bank operates art rental programs and helps further public engagement with contemporary arts.

The History of the Canada Pavilion
The Canadian representation at La Biennale di Venezia dates to 1952, and remains the only visual arts exhibition in the world to which Canada sends official representation. It showcases Canadian artistic achievement and has been instrumental in launching and sustaining international careers for generations of the country's most talented artists. Under the supervision of the Gallery Director at the time, Alan Jarvis, the Canada Pavilion was completed in 1957 and opened to the public in 1958 with an exhibition of the works of James Wilson Morrice, Jacques de Tonnancour, Anne Kahane, and Jack Nichols. The Gallery remains the custodian of the Canada Pavilion on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Canada's participation at the International Art Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia
Canada's representation at the Biennale Arte has played a significant part in shaping the role and place of Canadian contemporary art internationally. For more than 60 years, the Canada Pavilion has helped to launch the careers of many of Canada's most celebrated artists, including Emily Carr, David Milne, Alfred Pellan, Paul-Émile Borduas, Jean Paul Riopelle, Jean Paul Lemieux, Alex Colville, Guido Molinari, Michael Snow, General Idea, Liz Magor, Geneviève Cadieux, Rodney Graham, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, Jana Sterbak, Rebecca Belmore, David Altmejd, Mark Lewis, Steven Shearer, Shary Boyle and BGL.

The Geoffrey Farmer exhibition was commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and produced in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts. The Canadian representation at Biennale Arte 2017 is made possible through the generous financial support of Presenting Sponsor Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Major Sponsor Aimia. Other support was generously provided by the Canadian Artists in Venice Endowment, the Government of British Columbia, the Joy Thomson Fund, and the philanthropic support of over fifty families and individuals through the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Casey Kaplan, New York offered valued assistance to the project. 


SOURCE National Gallery of Canada

For further information: For all media requests: North America press contact: Josée-Britanie Mallet, Senior Media and Public Relations Officer, National Gallery of Canada, 1-613-990-6835 /; International press contact: Catriona Collins, Pickles PR, +44 7719 357 114 /

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