The 60th Venice Biennale, perhaps the most prestigious contemporary art exhibition, will open to the public this weekend, with previews starting on Wednesday.

Italy's long-running and sprawling event begins on Saturday and runs until November 24 under the theme of Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere. It explores identity, nationality, race and gender – all of which will be addressed from regional perspectives in the Middle Eastern pavilions scattered across the city.

Out of 331 artists who have been invited to the biennial, more than 40 are Arab and hail from countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Sudan: Wael Shawky will represent Egypt, Mounira Al Solh will represent the Lebanon Pavilion, Manal AlDowayan will represent Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Al Saadi will represent the UAE…

Their works will be shown across two sections – the Nucleo Contemporaneo, featuring artists who are currently active, and the Nucleo Storico, featuring important artists from history.

There will also be six Arab pavilions, five of which will be solo exhibitions and one a group show. Though only a small sample size, it will showcase variety beyond mediums and artistic style, as each will reflect the nuance and diversity of Arab artists in the region and the spectrum of conceptual and technical prowess and ability. Maan Jalal has put together a rundown of the pavilions showcasing Arab talents at the event.

The UAE in particular will be strongly represented. In addition to the anticipated Alserkal Initiatives exhibition, When Solidarity is Not a Metaphor, which begins on Tuesday at the Venice Officer’s Club as a peripheral event, there will be several artists from the country represented.

For Almaha Jaralla, Latifa Saeed and Samo Shalaby, the event is a dream come true, Razmig Bedirian finds. The three are set to showcase their works as part of Beyond Emerging Artists, organised by Abu Dhabi Art and supporting emerging creatives in the UAE, commissioning them to create new works.The trio unveiled the commissioned works in a group exhibition at Art Abu Dhabi in November. They will present those same artworks in Venice.

And as it has time and time again in years past, the event has proven to be a political lightning rod. Ahead of the opening, the Israeli pavilion was shuttered by the artist and curators representing the country, with the group demanding a Gaza ceasefire to reverse their decision.