With each participating country selecting an artist to represent their nation, the Biennale’s historic influence on the international art world can be tremendous.

Celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2015, the Biennale is a premier destination for art enthusiasts to observe and evaluate new, prospective investments. The artists and trends observed at the event often have an immediate impact on the commercial art market, as dealers follow these influential trends and incorporate them into their galleries. In fact, Artnet recently reported French art collector François Pinault bought Georg Baselitz’s series of eight large-scale paintings exhibited at the 2015 Biennale for $8.9 million.

RBC, in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada, sponsored the Canada Pavilion this year. Here, RBC’s art curator, Robin Anthony, gives art investors her cheat sheet on the top three trends to watch from this year’s exhibition.

1. Prominence of female artists

Visitors should pay attention to the prominence of female artists exhibiting, Anthony said. Historically, the exhibitions had been almost exclusively comprised of male artists. Yet, a few female artists gained prominence at the last Biennale, and this year the trend continued, she said.

Some of the female artists representing their country this year include Joan Jonas of the United States, Fiona Hall from Australia and Sarah Lucas representing Britain.


Fiona Hall, installation view, Australian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015, Image Credit: Christian Corte. Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney. © The artist.

Anthony found sculptor and installation artist Sarah Lucas’ pavilion particularly interesting. Her exhibition, “SCREAM DADDIO” at the British Pavilion, features sculptures of body parts in plaster and bronze installed throughout the galleries covered in the creamy yellow color of île flottante (a French pudding).

“I found Sarah’s works to be a strong feminist exhibition which looked at the female body and power of position. She is challenging the viewer to consider a strong female presentation in a traditional setting,” Anthony said.

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According to Susannah Pollen, senior advisor at ArtBanc, there is often a disparity in market prices for female artists’ works in comparison to male artists’ works. “Female artists have historically and consistently been less highly valued in the commercial art market than men, and though there are some signs that the differentials have narrowed slightly in the last few years, this is still overwhelmingly the case,” she said.

She added, “the highest price for postwar male artists such as [Francis] Bacon or [Andy] Warhol exceed prices of female favorite Joan Mitchell by a factor of 10. Likewise, the price discrepancy for living artists Jeff Koons, $50 million plus, compared to Yayoi Kusama at $5 million plus.”

Is this trend set to change? A recent survey by the Art Newspaper reported that Japanese artist Kusama drew the highest numbers of visitors globally in 2014, with attendance of more than two million people at her retrospectives in Central and South America. That, plus the rise in number of women artists representing and exhibiting at 2015 Biennale, “is bound to have an effect on potential for investment and prices—but this is likely to be gradual rather than meteoric,” Pollen said.

2. Increased participation of established artists

Experienced artists showcased alongside emerging talent at this year’s event. “There was a focus on senior artists who have respected careers that were commissioned to create new works for the Biennale,” Anthony said.

Featured this year, for example, were internationally recognized artists Shilpa Gupta of India and Rashid Rana of Pakistan. “For the first time, two historically conflicting countries have joined together,” said Anthony. “‘My East is Your West’ exhibition is an example of established artists being challenged to create new work that has a historical perspective—but with a new outlook.”

Other notable senior artists displaying work include George Baselitz, Christian Boltanski, Bruce Nauman and Peter Doig.

The Biennale has played a long-standing role in raising the status of an artist’s reputation, said Pollen. Dealers “convert the credibility and critical acclaim achieved at Venice into commercial success,” she added.

The effects of established artists such as Nauman and Doig’s presence in this year’s Biennale can already be seen in the art market. “Doig’s auction record was broken post Venice, and Nauman whose prices have lagged in relation to his importance seem likely to strengthen,” Pollen said.


Installation view of Joan Jonas’s “They Come To Us Without a Word (Bees)”, 2014-2015. The U.S. Pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia; commissioned by MIT List Visual Art Center. Photo by Moira Ricci.

3. Larger focus on social and political issues

Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor, the first African director of the Biennale, brought a strong commitment to geographical diversity with the theme, “All the World’s Futures.”

Many of the works exhibited are “reflective of Enwezor’s curatorial statement that the global landscape is in disarray,” Anthony said. Enwezor invited artists from peripheral countries—including numerous African countries—whose themes are influenced by politics. “Some of the artists are from countries where their freedom of expression and their identities are so important to them that it becomes part of their works,” Anthony said.

Although the Biennale has always provided the platform for experimental, social and political statements, Pollen noted that for art investing, “the challenge for artists and collectors is to make and find works of wit, imagination and beauty which are both politically credible, offering thoughtful and layered subtexts, as well as being visually arresting.”

Pollen gave three examples of such works from the Biennale: El Anatsui, for his ability to make visually captivating works with bottle-top debris, Chiharu Shiota’s striking and meditative installation made of a massive web of red yarn and keys for the Japan Pavilion, and Sarah Lucas’ witty, thought-provoking works.

Pollen added that those who can express these themes in more traditional media provide greater opportunities for investments.

The 56th Venice Biennale officially opened on May 9th, featuring 136 artists from 88 participating countries, and ran until Nov. 22, with 44 satellite art exhibitions throughout Venice. For art enthusiasts and investors alike, it’s an event not to be missed.

This article first appeared on Forbes WealthVoice.