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Looking for the Ark, Noah's Ark, Crosstalk and New Generation, 60th Venice Biennial, Venice (IT), 20 Apr - 24 Nov 2024

The city of Venice has invited Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen for a partner project at this year's biennial, running from April 20 to November 24, 2024. With 'Looking for the Ark' Vanmechelens work is shown at two prominent venues: the Venetian Pavilion in the Giardini and Tesa 99 in the Arsenale Nord.

The theme of this 60th edition, 'Foreigners Everywhere', resonates deeply with the core theme in Koen Vanmechelen's extensive oeuvre. As one of Belgium’s most notable contemporary artists, Vanmechelen’s practice transcends traditional boundaries, merging art, science and community engagement. With his Cosmopolitan Renaissance, Vanmechelen advocates for a more sustainable balance between the local and the global. In his diverse body of work, the artist spans topics from anthropology to bioethics, human rights to bio-genetics, and from the concepts of hybridisation among animal and plant species to the fertile contamination of culture and nature. 

Shared humanity

Koen Vanmechelen's project at the 60th Venice Biennale offers visitors a captivating artistic experience, inviting contemplation on our shared humanity and the future of our planet. His monumental installation, ‘Looking for the Ark’ is a philosophical depiction of the resilience and vulnerability of life. Vanmechelen translates his vision into a diptych - a child and an ark - (inter)connected across two different locations.

“The installation is a reflection of humanity's journey, anchored in the spirit and history of Venice itself, but it is also an ode to the future in which there is room for all life in all its forms” — Koen Vanmechelen

Looking for the Ark

Giardini della Venezia

Out of the pool of the Venice Pavilion rises a two-meter-high sculpture of a child in black marble. This sculpture is based on Adriano Cecioni's 'Bambino con Gallo' (1868), part of the permanent collection of the Uffizi in Florence, where Vanmechelen exhibited in 2022. Vanmechelen replaces the original rooster with a bronze anchor and adds a glass chain. The child is visibly struggling with the anchor while its feet are already in the water. In search of fortitude and anchoring, it almost seems to succumb to the weight. The sculpture also depicts Venice's search for a more sustainable future. According to Vanmechelen, Venice is to culture what the Galapagos Islands are to nature. For possible answers to this quest, the child looks towards Arsenale Nord. At this legendary ship site, testimony to Venice's maritime character and centuries-old melting pot of people and ideas, visitors discover the second part of Vanmechelen's installation.

Noah's Ark

 TESA 99, Arsenale Nord

In Tesa 99, visitors are greeted by the same anchor, here in glass. Central in the space stands 'Noah's Ark', Vanmechelen's contemporary interpretation of the Venetian water bus, the Vaporetto. The artist transforms this iconic Venetian symbol into a floating gallery. The boat, laden with sculptures of glass, taxidermy, bronze and 3D printing, transports a microcosm of our world. Besides the passengers at the back, the packed ark carries figures who symbolise human genius, philosophical thought, and the power of change, from Frida Kahlo and Albert Einstein to Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Persons who helped shape our history and future. Each carries a message that transcends the boundaries of time and geography.

The ark's roof is home to a variety of trees and animals, half in glass and half in taxidermy and bronze. These near-extinct species act as a poignant reminder of the impact of the Anthropocene. Half in our realm, half in another, they call for greater ecological awareness. For Koen Vanmechelen the ark is a place where the world comes together, but it also acts as a warning. If we fail to create a new world together, the ship will sink. There is no escape, the space shuttle cannot carry our world. At the same time, the artwork is an ode to the future, a sustainable society, in which there is room for all life in all its forms. We are the others, as is also shown in the artwork 'Book of Genome'. Finally, Vanmechelen reminds us of the importance of history: two glass sculptures of neanderthals face a large neon sign on the wall: the future depends on forgotten memories. In the backdrop of the Biennale, ‘Looking for the Ark’ urges us to navigate the turbulent waters of our existence with awareness, responsibility, and hope.

In our tumultuous world, in which we are all foreigners, myriad arks daily seek a safe haven. Noah's Ark, where the world once united for survival, echoes a lesson for the future. We stand at the crossroads, with every decision shaping our future. This installation presents a voyage that urges us to reimagine our world. United in our DNA, we rediscover our blind connections, as anchors for our shared future. Recalling our past and embracing evolutionary thought, we find possible solutions in forgotten memories, unlocking innovation for today's dilemma. Venice is for culture what the Galapagos are for nature, both face its survival challenge. It is here that ‘Looking for the Ark’ can serve as a call to awareness, responsibility, and hope. Only united, we navigate toward a sustainable horizon, ensuring no soul is left behind — Koen Vanmechelen

Crosstalk and New Generation, GLASSTRESS 81/2 2024

Fondazione Berengo Art Space, Murano

Koen Vanmechelen also participates in GLASSTRESS 81/2, a group exhibition on the glass island of Murano, organised by Berengo Studio and curated by Umberto Croppi. GLASSTRESS returns to its original location - an old furnace in the isle of Murano that was converted into an exhibition space in 2009. Vanmechelen shows two works, Crosstalk and New Generation. The exhibition pays tribute to filmmaker Federico Fellini and his eponymous masterpiece 81/2 , a film celebrating artistic creation. It also highlights the eighth edition of Glasstress in Venice, with the ½ referring to the special project in Tesa 99. Among the more than 30 other artists are Laure Prouvost, Wael Shawky, Ai Weiwei, and Chila Kumari Burman.

General info

Looking for the Ark

Koen Vanmechelen

Partner of the Venice Pavilion 60th International Art Exhibition

Pool of Venice Pavilion Giardini della Biennale

20 April - 24 November 2024

Tesa 99, Arsenale Nord

20 April - 5 May, 29 May - 2 June, 20 June - 25 August 2024

More information on


Berengo Studio

Studio Koen Vanmechelen

Project curation and coordination

Beatrice Mosca

Special thanks to

Comune di Venezia    

The Mayor, Luigi Brugnaro MUVE - Fondazione Musei Civici VeneziaVela Spa

Glasstress 8 ½

This installation features as part of the special ½ of the exhibition Glasstress 8 ½, curated by Umberto Croppi. Glasstress 8 ½ is the eighth edition of the biannual exhibition of works by contemporary artists and designers created in collaboration with the glass masters of Berengo Studio.

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