The Venice Biennale closed as the city was hit by its second-worst flood ever recorded.

Christy Kuesel
Nov 13, 2019 6:00PM, via The Art Newspaper

Flooding in Venice caused the mayor of the city to declare a state of emergency. Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images.

Venice has been hit by its second-highest tide ever recorded, and its worst flood in over 50 years. Two people have been reported dead so far, according to The Guardian, and flooding is expected to worsen on Wednesday and continue through Friday. Waters in the city reached 1.87 meters (6.2 feet) on Tuesday night at the highest mark, and 80 percent of the city was underwater, according to The Art Newspaper.

The Venice Biennale, scheduled to stay open until November 24th, has been forced to close temporarily due to the high waters. The conditions of the artworks in the biennale is currently unknown. The flooding caused several fires, including one at the International Gallery of Modern Art Ca’Pesaro, though no artwork was damaged. The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is also closed, as are mega-collector François Pinault’s two exhibition spaces in the city.

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, has declared a state of emergency and said that the extreme flooding is due to climate change.

The Piazza San Marco was submerged by over one meter (more than 3 feet) of water Tuesday night, and Venice’s crown jewel, the Basilica San Marco, was flooded for the fourth time in the last two decades. It last flooded in the fall of 2018, causing around €2.2 million ($2.4 million) in damage. According to Reuters, the Archbishop Francesco Moraglia said at a news conference: “The Basilica is suffering structural damage because the water has risen and so it's causing irreparable damage, especially when it dries out in the lower section of the mosaics and tiling.” Brugnaro estimated the financial impact of the current flooding would be hundreds of millions of euros.

The 1.87 meter highwater mark falls just short of the great 1966 flood, when waters reached 1.94 meters (6.4 feet) above sea level. Although flooding has slightly subsided, it is expected to worsen, with a maximum tide height of 1.3 meters expected on Thursday. Some Venetians claim the flooding is exacerbated by the lack of three barriers that should stand at the openings between the lagoon and the sea around Venice, which were originally expected to be completed in 2011 but are still unfinished.

Further Reading: The Venice Biennale’s 10 Best Pavilions in the Arsenale and Giardini

Christy Kuesel