Venice Biennale stunt reminds people of the daily reality of war

Ukrainian agency Bickerstaff.734’s latest campaign saw it distribute posters across Venice pointing out where the city’s historic bomb shelters are based

There is always some tension between the ultra-wealthy collectors who typically descend on the Venice Biennale to take in the politically radical art on display, but this year’s edition feels particularly pertinent given the current state of geopolitics.

While Israeli artist Ruth Patir pulled out of the 60th edition of the Biennale and protests erupted outside the Israel pavilion amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine local agency Bickerstaff.734 is hoping to keep the war in the news cycle with its latest thought-provoking campaign.

The stunt saw the agency place hundreds of posters and banners featuring bomb shelter maps – which have become a regular feature of daily life in Ukraine over the last couple of years – throughout the Biennale venue and tourist locations.

Mirroring the design of the official Biennale maps but in an attention-grabbing red hue with black text, the QR code on the posters brings up a map of old Second World War bomb shelters dotted throughout Venice.

There’s been a big reaction to the campaign online, with videos of posters plastered next to canals and strewn in the streets by St Mark’s Basilica going viral. The agency also handed out the maps during the Biennale’s preview days to target as many influential people in the art world as possible.

Bickerstaff CEO Veronika Selege says: “We are honoured … to tell the world about both Ukrainian art and once again have a reason to remind the world about the bloody full-scale war in Ukraine.”