Vatican brings Genesis interpretation to Venice Biennale in return to arts patronage tradition

The Vatican is getting back into its centuries-old tradition of arts patronage with its first-ever exhibit at the Venice Biennale, commissioning a biblically inspired show about creation, destruction and renewal.

The Holy See on Tuesday unveiled details of its pavilion for one of the world's most prestigious arts festivals, which opens June 1. The pavilion represents the Vatican's biggest step yet in a renewed effort to engage contemporary artists and intellectuals in the way the Catholic Church once did to create such masterpieces as the Sistine Chapel.

It's also something of a risk, given that the Venice Biennale has provided a very visible venue for blasphemous art, including Maurizio Cattelan's 2001 depiction of a life-size figure of Pope John Paul II being crushed by a black meteorite.