Venice Biennale Australia

Australia’s new Venice pavilion to be built with private money

All A$6m ($6m) needed for the building will come from the private sector

Denton Corker Marshall's designs for the new Australian pavilion

The Australia Council for the Arts has announced that the new Australian pavilion at the Venice Biennale is to be designed by Melbourne-based architectural practice Denton Corker Marshall. The new building, which the architects describe as “a form of the utmost simplicity: a white box contained within a black box” is due to be completed in 2015, with the existing pavilion that has occupied the site since 1988 and was always intended to be a temporary structure, having its swansong at next year’s Biennale when it will house the work of Simryn Gill.

Although the site is owned by the Australian federal government and managed by the Australia Council for the Arts, the government’s arts funding and advisory body, all of the A$6m ($6.04m) needed for the new building is to be raised from the private sector. “We don’t have any funds for capital projects,” says Julie Lomax, the Australia Councils’s director of visual arts. “We give some money to organisations but our main remit is to support artists.”

Leading the funding drive is Simon Mordant, joint chief executive of corporate advisory firm Greenhill Caliburn, who is the commissioner of the 2013 pavilion. Mordant, who also serves as the chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and who recently donated A$15m to the museum’s expansion project, has already pledged A$1m of his own money for the new pavilion, and is confident that he can raise the rest. “We have to have the funding in place by late next year and so we’ve got quite a bit of time,” he says. “We’re still in the early stages but the process is well under way: my family made a commitment before the architect was announced and I’m very confident that the funding task will be completed.”

There may be no state funding for Australia’s new national pavilion but Mr Mordant nonetheless considers it to be entirely the domain of the state, with its redevelopment marking “a true partnership between the federal government and the private sector”. As for the building itself, which Mordant also had a key role in selecting, “it is incredibly simple but also very beautiful and versatile in what it can house”. And will Mr Mordant be playing a role in selecting its first occupant? “The appointments are made for one biennale at a time,” he says. “There has been a history of the commissioner being offered a second biennale but that happens at some other time and there’s been no discussion with me about that… I’ve plenty on for the time being.”

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