Photo: The Grand Canal, Venice by Kate St James

In a significant boost for Australian architecture, one of the nation’s most successful businesswomen and best-known patron of the arts will become the new face of Australia’s presence at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Announcing the nation’s new Venice Architecture Biennale Commissioner, the Australian Institute of Architects National President, Melinda Dodson said Perth-based Janet Holmes à Court AC has agreed to take on the key role.

“The Venice Architecture Biennale is arguably the most important event on the international contemporary architecture calendar. Thousands of the world’s most influential architects, designers, urban planners, developers and critics visit the Biennale, resulting in considerable discussion and commentary in the architectural press and general media. It’s therefore vital that we have strong leadership to maximise these opportunities, and the best creative team possible to ensure the world is watching.”

Ms Dodson said the high profile role of Commissioner, held very successfully over the past two years by former Sydney Lord Mayor, businesswoman and fellow arts patron Lucy Turnbull, is vital to ensuring that Australia’s presence in Venice is supported onshore and internationally.

Accepting the appointment, Mrs Holmes à Court said: “I am delighted to have been invited to participate in the Venice Architecture Biennale as Commissioner. I have been deeply interested in Australia’s built environment for most of my life, rejoicing with our architects where they have been innovative and successful and weeping with them over the proliferation of buildings inappropriate to our Australian environment and that of the 21st century world.

“From my travels and reading, I feel confident that Australia has a great wealth of architectural talent. This is often overlooked in the maturing of our society. Anything I can do to draw attention to the creativity of the best Australian architects will be a joy and a privilege.

Ms Dodson added that: “Mrs Holmes à Court is well-known as a businesswoman, board director and arts patron, not just in Australia but internationally. As a result she brings with her the ability to help attract strong support for and attention to our presence in Venice for the 2010Biennale.

The Australian Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale attracted 57,000 visitors from across the globe -providing unparalleled exposure for Australian architects on the world stage.