Contemporary art and curatorship: from documenta to the Biennale

In the first venture of its kind, the Summer School in Contemporary Art and Curatorship offers students the chance to gain insight into the management principles of two of the world's most important and influential contemporary art exhibitions the Kassel documenta and La Biennale di Venezia by bringing together the expertise of scholars, artists and curators based in the hosting cities Kassel (Germany), and Venice (Italy).

Programme details for 2020 will be available in January 2020.

Programme 2020

The Summer School will offer two distinct but interconnected 2-week modules that together will investigate the history, management principles and strategies of the two art institutions documenta and La Biennale di Venezia. Students have the chance to fully immerse themselves in contemporary art and curatorship for 4 weeks, through lectures and visits of exhibition spaces in Kassel, Berlin and Venice. 

Students can choose to enrol in both modules, or in each module separately, and will be provided with a certificate at the end of each in order to request credit recognition at their home university.

Dates and schedule

  • Module 1: "Inside Arts" (Kassel)
    International Summer University Kassel (Uni Kassel, Germany), June 22 - July 7, 2019, including a weekend in Berlin (July 4-7)
  • Module 2: "Curatorship of Contemporary Visual Art and Performance"  (Venice)
    Ca' Foscari School for International Education (Ca' Foscari University Venice, Italy), July 8 - 19, 2019

Course contents

Module 1: Inside Arts

Location: Uni Kassel, Germany
Hours: 20
Credits: TBC

The documenta in Kassel is one of the most important and well known modern arts exhibitions in the world. Since its beginning in 1953, it has grown continuously and can be experienced not only in museums and art halls but also in many places throughout the city, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors. The University of Kassel offers the chance to get involved with the theory and practice of documenta and to learn about its history to any students and graduates interested especially in Fine Arts and Cultural Sciences but also those interested in Economics, Marketing and Management.

After the Berlin tour, students can continue with another 2-week module in Venice at Ca‘ Foscari University with a focus on the Venice Biennale.

Inside Arts - 40 hours

“Inside Arts” provides insight in how to curate an exhibition of this dimension – from pre-planning to the management of the documenta, including international marketing. We will visit the documenta Archive, art galleries and museums exhibiting documenta art.In addition, 2019 is the year of the Bauhaus centennial, which will be celebrated with the Kassel exhibition Bauhaus / documenta. Vision und Marke (vision and brands) which allows us to discuss these two concepts together with the organisers of the exhibition.

The course finishes with a trip to Berlin. In the capital, we will experience street art, which Berlin is famous for, including the East Side Gallery – the longest remaining part of the Berlin wall painted with graffiti art. Famous art museums like the Nationalgalerie/ Museum Island, the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart (Museum of Contemporary Art), or the Gemäldegalerie with masterpieces from the Middle Ages to Baroque will also be a part of the trip.

Module 2: Curatorship of Contemporary Visual Art and Performance

Location: Venice, Italy
Hours: 40
Credits: 6 cfu

The module will alternate between in-class lectures and site visits of relevant art projects and exhibitions in Venice's most important exhibition spaces (La Biennale di Venezia, Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Palazzo Grassi-Punta della Dogana - Pinault Collection, VAC, Tre Oci, MUVE-Musei civici di Venezia, Guggenheim), with a special focus on the Venice Biennale that will include:

  • a presentation of the history of the Biennale at Ca’ Giustinian, the historical headquarters of the Biennale di Venezia on the Grand Canal
  • a guided visit of ASAC, the Biennale historical archives
  • a private visit to the Palazzo del Cinema
  • a lecture on-site at the Biennale Giardini
  • seminars and conversations with curators and artists
  • students will also receive a 3-day pass for visiting the Biennale exhibition

Curatorship - 6 hrs

The section analyzes tendencies, strategies and key-figures in the curatorial theory and practice through the analysis of specific case studies from the history of exhibitions in 20th and 21st century. Particular attention will be given to the history and structure of the Venice Biennale, the alleged “mother of all the Biennials”, which will allow for a comparative and compelling approach, supported by on-site visits to exhibitions, performances and talks with the involved artists and curators.

Course instructors: Matteo Bertelè and Susanne Franco

History of the Biennale - 8 hrs

The module focuses on the history of the Venice Biennale and on its interdisciplinary programme from its foundation in 1895 up to the 2019 art exhibition. Particular attention will be given to the local context of the initiatives, and to the international significance of the Biennale included the worldwide emergence of the Biennials as a global contemporary phenomenon. In-class lectures discussing strategies and key-figures in the curatorial theory and practice will alternate with visits to the exhibitions and performances held in the framework of the Venice Biennale and its collateral events. The programme includes also a series of meetings with artists, performers and curators.

Course instructors: Matteo Bertelè and Susanne Franco

Contemporary Art and Performance - 6 hrs

The module aims to help students understand and analyse contemporary performance art and dance, and to reflect on the dynamic ways in which they increasingly hybridize. Particular attention will be given to the growing presence in museums and art galleries of events and exhibitions in which performance and dance play a central role. Classroom lectures will alternate with visits to institutions that have recently hosted performance events and meetings with artists.

Course instructor: Susanne Franco

Accommodation in Venice

Shared accommodation in Venice's city centre at a student residence (shared double or triple room) can be reserved through the SIE. Students will be required to contact the accommodation provider for confirmation and payment following programme confirmation. For specific needs or requests please let us know well in advance; requests may incur additional costs. 

  • €38 double or triple room per night
  • €40 single room per night

Reservations will be made for check-in on the Sunday before the programme starts, and check-out the Saturday after the programme finishes. Please note that prices are approximate and will be confirmed once the booking has been reserved.


Silvia Burini

Programme Director

Silvia Burini is Director of the Centre for the Studies of Russian Arts (CSAR) at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, where she is also professor of History of Russian Art and Comparative History of Contemporary Art.

Susanne Franco

Lecturer, Curatorship of Contemporary Visual Art and Performance

Susanne Franco is a lecturer at Ca' Foscari University. She focuses on modern and contemporary dance, performance art, site-specific events in museums and galleries, and research methodology. 

Matteo Bertelè

Lecturer, Curatorship of Contemporary Visual Art and Performance

Matteo Bertelé is a lecturer at Ca' Foscari University. His research interests include art history, Russian, Soviet and socialist visual culture, exhibition studies and cultural aspects of the Cold War.

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship under Grant Agreement no. 750682.

Alessia Cavallaro

Lecturer, Curatorship of Contemporary Visual Art and Performance

Alessia Cavallaro took up a research fellowship at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where she teaches History of Russian Art and History of Modern European Art, and focuses on Soviet and Russian art history and culture.


Sara Mondini

Lecturer, Curatorship of Contemporary Visual Art and Performance

Sara Mondini is adjunct professor of Indian Modern and Contemporary Art and South Asian Visual Culture at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice  and adjunct professor of Art and Civilization of the Islamic World and East Asian Art and Civilization at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology at Milan Politecnico.

Last update: 20/01/2020