Venice 2016


May 13th – November 26th, 2017

Curator James Putnam and Benney Studios have been invited to exhibit Paul Benney’s painting ‘Speaking in Tongues’, accompanying sound installation, and associated works for the 57th Venice Arts Biennale, May 13th – November 26th 2017, in the Church of San Gallo just north of St Mark’s Square.

Speaking In Tongues

Speaking in Tongues’ is Paul Benney’s most ambitious work to date. In it he brings people from various ethnicities and religious backgrounds together to individually express a spiritual awakening – a state of grace, beyond partisan concerns, that is universally yearned for. The diverse ages, races, and faiths in ‘Speaking in Tongues’ underline the potential for inclusivity and cross-cultural engagement. In this work Benney seeks to demonstrate that a singular piece of art can elucidate the need for an understanding between disparate ideologies to engage in a shared spiritual dialogue.

The work is accompanied by an audio installation wherein each of the subjects relate a memorable and spiritually enlightening moment of their lives. At first and from afar the viewer encounters the multitude of monologues as a slightly disorienting babble but as they approach each figure in the work, the intimate and personal monologue belonging to that person becomes discernable through sound focusing technology.

The highly reflective mirror-like nature of the pigmented resin surface of ‘Speaking in Tongues’ allows viewers to see their reflections in the same scale as the figures represented in the work. The sense that the viewer has become a part of the scene encourages an individual engagement both visually and audibly.

Benney’s work employs macabre and theatrical surrealism to reflect on the irrational relationship between belief systems and the authenticity of images. Here he also offers an alternative depiction of modernism that mines the intersection of technological advancements and phantasmagorical phenomena over the last two centuries.  

Presented in a ecclesiastical environment utilizing specialist lighting and audio effects ‘Speaking in Tongues’  is an immersive experience relating to ecstatic revelation, stage magic, spirit photography, pseudoscience, telekinesis, and other manifestations of the paranormal. Drawing together social, spiritual, and empirical histories to comment on the contemporary virtual experience.

Speaking in Tongues’ has toured the United Kingdom and exhibited in contemporary and religious venues including Chichester and Leicester Cathedrals. Speaking in Tongues will be a unique and exciting addition by a UK artist to the 2017 Venice Arts Biennale.

The Venice Arts Biennale is one of the preeminent contemporary arts exhibitions in the world. Started in 1895, this event is has been held biennially for over 100 years and spans over six months. 2017 will mark the 57th Venice Arts Biennale and will showcase artists from over 80 countries in a variety of exhibition venues. The event attracts artists, art collectors, major cultural and political figures as well as museum directors, cultural government officials, gallery directors, high net worth individuals and institutional directors from around the world.

Attendance to each exhibition varies, however most ticketed exhibitions from the previous Venice Arts Biennale in 2015 saw over 500,000 visitors over the 6 month period. As the exhibition of Paul Benney’s ‘Speaking in Tongues’ will be free to the general public, we anticipate attendance to be 500,000+.

Exhibition History 

Speaking in Tongues’ was originally unveiled in Leicester Cathedral on May 7th 2014. The unveiling was noted by The Financial Times, The Sunday Times, BBC Raio, BBC Television as well as various local publications. [Note Appendix]. The work was then selected to appear at the group exhibition ‘Our of Our Heads’ in London where it distinguished itself amongst other work by Tim Shaw, Mat Collishaw, Mat Chivers and Jessica Bugg.

SIT in Leicester

‘Speaking in Tongues’ then traveled to one of London’s most notable venues for religiously themed contemporary art, Marylebone Parish Church, for an extended 5 month exhibition where it continued to peak the interest of the contemporary art word. Most recently the work traveled to the 900-year-old Chichester Cathedral which has architectural and artistic treasures from every century since its foundation, and is especially famous for its modern art. The work was shown alongside Chichester’s world famous contemporary collection of paintings, sculpture and glass, by artists such as Graham Sutherland, Marc Chagall, John Piper and Philip Jackson.

Speaking in Tongues in Chichester


Paul Benney has now been invited to show ‘Speaking in Tongues’, accompanying sound installation and other associated works at one of the most famous contemporary art shows in the world : The 2017 Venice Arts Biennale. The 2017 Venice Arts Biennale would be first time for the work to be seen outside the UK and is an opportunity to showcase the work of a prominent UK artist to an international audience.



The benefits of sponsoring ‘Speaking in Tongues’ at the 2017 Venice Arts Biennale are extensive.

They would include the following points:


  • Sponsor Logo will appear on printed material surrounding the work for the 6 month duration of the 2017 Venice Arts Biennale would be seen by over 500,000+ people including high net worth individuals, institutions and organizations.
  • Any Sponsor will be identified by a global audience as a patron of the arts and a supporter of work that celebrates cultural difference and encourages cross-cultural understanding.
  • Any principle Sponsor will be eligible to use the exhibition space, pending municipal approval, for any corporate functions they would like to hold in the exhibition venue and small piazza       outside of the church of San Gallo.
  • Any Sponsor will have a direct link to Paul Benney and Benney Studios
  • Sponsors will be invited to the VIP reception for ‘Speaking in Tongues’ at the 2017 Venice Arts Biennale which will afford an opportunity to meet and network with other Sponsors, and supporters of Paul Benney’s work.




“My work is an attempt to encourage us to release from the minds active vigilance; that only warrants transformations that the intellect can fully identify.

Within the dominant Western paradigm, indistinct in-between-ness, or ambiguity, uncertainty and indeterminacy – a vagueness that is the consequence of relinquishing the control of centric or foveal vision over consciousness and of entering into a condition of friction or movement within the gauzy permeability of consciousness – inspires either a sense of cognitive deficit and failure, loss and lack, fear and anxiety, or, in a more affirmative context, a sense of ecstatic release, of being lost in the ‘oceanic’. Confronted by the infinity of the ‘horizon’, beyond which the infinite looms, the subject either relinquishes self-mastery and experiences ‘self-shattering’, or withdraws into reflexive self-knowing, where it acquires knowledge of limits, and as compensation or reward acquires a heightened sense of a more ‘authentic’ or less deceived or deluded existence. “

(Ref: Simon Morley. Ways of Seeing, East and West)



 If you are interested in sponsorship,

please contact:




P: +44 (0)20 7244 1930



P: +44 (0)78 1694 4299





P:+44 (0)777 45 33221




The total cost to required bring ‘Speaking in Tongues’, the accompanying sound installation and associated works to the 2017 Venice Arts Biennale is €175,000 [ ~£150.000 ]. A detailed breakdown of the costs can be found below.


The costs of exhibiting the work at the 2017 Venice Biennale fall into the following categories: Transportation of the work, Installation & De-Installation, Exhibition and Invigilation costs, Audio Equipment, Studio, Curatorial and Administration fees, Promotion and Publicity, Insurance, The 2017 Venice Arts Biennale Collateral Fee, as well as an Opening Event.


Transport r/t (including insurance + Crate storage) € *15,000
Installation & De-Installation € *11,500
Exhibition and Invigilation € 65,000
Sound Focusing Technology € 9,000
Studio Expenses [Travel, accommodation] € *6,000
Administrative Fee [Luca Berta] € 6,500
Curatorial Fee [James Putnam and Lauren Jones]   [10 of Fixed Venice Costs %] € 12,000
Promotion & Publication Materials € *15,000
Artwork Insurance €   *6,000
Biennale Collateral Fee € 25,000
Opening Party € *4,000
Total €175,000



Transporting the work to Venice from storage fully insured is 15,000. This includes insurance on the work during transport as well transport of the work to S. Gallo in Venice via canal boat.


Installation of the work would be done partially through the studio as well as a logistics agent based in Venice. We are quoting this as €11,500 given our previous experience with installations of this nature.

Exhibition and Invigilation Costs:

     The venue will have to be paid for and invigilated for the duration of the 2017 Venice Arts Biennale. This has been confirmed at €65,000.

 Sound Display:

The sound display is a bespoke installation and requires six sound focusing speakers which will be hung on bespoke rigging that is venue specific. These speakers represent one of the newest innovations in audio technology and are supplied by a single vendor. This expense is confirmed at €9,000.

 Studio, Administration and Curatorial Fees:

The Italian administrative discounted fee is confirmed at €6,500.

The UK curatorial fee is confirmed at €12,000.

Studio fees will be €6,000+ which includes airfare and accommodation for members of the studio to oversee installation of the project.

Promotion and Publicity:

Promotion and Publicity will be €15,000. This is based on PR fees and the cost of producing and distributing promotional materials.


Insurance of the work for the duration of the 2017 Venice Arts Biennale will be €6,500+.

Biennale Collateral Fee:

     In order to be listed as an ‘Official’ Event in the 2017 Venice Biennale, the exhibition must be registered with the governing Biennale organization. This fee is confirmed at €25,000.

Opening Party

     The exhibition will open to for a private view before the opening of the Biennale. Drinks and light canapés will be served in the exhibition venue and the adjoining town square. This will be €4,000


For all other enquiries please contact the studio