WHEN OKWUI ENWEZOR WAS NAMED director of the Visual Arts Sector of the 56th Venice Biennale on Dec. 4, 2013, the appointment was historic. Nigerian-born Enwezor, the increasingly influential curator, writer and critic who serves as director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich, is the first African director of the Venice Biennale. At the time of the announcement, he indicated an interest in exploring the intersection of art and culture at the forthcoming international exhibition.

“No event or exhibition of contemporary art has continuously existed at the confluence of so many historical changes across the fields of art, politics, technology, and economics, like la Biennale di Venezia,” Enwezor said. “La Biennale is the ideal place to explore all these dialectical fields of reference, and the institution of la Biennale itself will be a source of inspiration in planning the Exhibition.”

In the year since, the art world has been anticipating and speculating about Enwezor’s plans for the biennale, which opens on May 9 and runs through Nov. 22, 2015 at the Giardini and the Arsenale. Today, programming details and the list of artists were announced.

The 136 artists and collectives chosen to participate in the international exhibition hail from all over the world including Cuba, the Middle East, advancing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) with an emerging presence on the international art scene, and Germany, where Enwezor lives and works.

The diverse list also include more than 35 black artists, Ellen Gallagher, Glenn Ligon, Wangechi Mutu, Oscar Murillo, and Lorna Simpson, among them.

The roster features prominent African American artists (the late Terry Adkins, Melvin Edwards, Kerry James Marshall, Gary Simmons), a healthy slate of African artists (Karo Akpokiere, Kay Hassan, Gonçalo Mabunda, Emeka Ogboh) as well as black artists who live and work in Europe (Sonia Boyce, Isaac Julien, Steve McQueen, Adrian Piper).

British-born Chris Ofili whose first major U.S. solo museum exhibition, “Night and Day,” was on view last fall at the New Museum in New York (and opens in July at the Aspen Art Museum), is participating. Photographers Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick whose documentation of Angola Prison was presented at Prospect.3 New Orleans, will also exhibit work.

All told, 25 percent of the the artists in the international exhibition at the 2015 Venice Biennale are black—a significant rate of participation.

All told, 25 percent of the the artists in the international exhibition at the 2015 Venice Biennale are black—a significant rate of participation.

venice biennale artists
Clockwise from top left, Steve McQueen, Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili, Lorna Simpson, Kay Hassan, Glenn Ligon.

Eighty-nine countries are participating in the biennale. This is the first year that Grenada, Mauritius, Mongolia, Republic of Mozambique, and Republic of Seychelles are appearing. The full roster of artists represents 53 nations and 88 artists will be presenting their work at the biennale for the first time.

Joan Jonas, the pioneering performance and multimedia artist who has collaborated with Adam Pendleton and Jason Moran, is representing the United States at this year’s biennale.

The international exhibition, curated by Enwezor, is entitled “All the World’s Futures,” which has inspired the programming’s “fresh appraisal of the relationship of art and artists to the current state of things.”

New York-based Creative Time is organizing a summit, featuring discussions among visionary figures during the exhibition. The catalog of the 2015 Venice Biennale is published in two volumes.

With costume and set designs by Kara Walker, a new production of Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma” will be staged beginning May 20 as a special project of the bienniale at Teatro la Fenice.

During today’s press conference in Venice, Enwezor described highlights of international exhibition’s official programming:

Within the Central Pavillion, architect David Adjaye designed the Arena, an active space dedicated to live programming including spoken word, musical performances, film projections and discussions. Charles Gaines and Jason Moran are among the artists who will present work at the Arena, along with French artist Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc who is staging a memorial to African American musician, singer, and composer Julius Eastman (1940–1990).

Chicago artist Theaster Gates is presenting “Martyr Construction,” a multimedia installation that addresses “the recurring dissolution and demolition of church parishes in African American and Hispanic neighborhoods across the United States.”

A robust series of programming is planned to showcase the work of Invisible Boarders: The Trans-African Project, a collective of African photographers. The group will present a survey of its photography and audiovisual projects throughout the seven-month duration of the biennale, and “Invisible Borders,” the collective’s 2011 documentary will be screened in the Arena.


Official Participating Artists Include:

1. ADKINS, Terry
b. 1953 – d. 2014, United States

b. 1957 Ghana, lives and works in London

b. 1981 Nigeria, lives and works in Lagos and Berlin

4. BALOJI, Sammy
b. 1978 Democratic Republic of Congo, lives and works in Lubumbashi and Brussels

5. BOYCE, Sonia
b. 1962 United Kingdom, lives and works in London

6. CALHOUN, Keith & McCORMICK, Chandra
b. 1955/b. 1957 United States, live and work in New Orleans

7. EDWARDS, Melvin
b. 1937 United States, lives and works in New York

8. FUSCO, Coco
b. 1960 United States, lives and works in New York

9. GAINES, Charles
b. 1944 United States, lives and works in Los Angeles

10. GALLAGHER, Ellen
b. 1965 United States, lives and works in Rotterdam

11. GATES, Theaster
b. 1973 United States, lives and works in Chicago

12. GOMES, Sônia
b. 1948 Brazil, lives and works in Belo Horizonte

13. HASSAN, Kay
b. 1956 South Africa, lives and works in Johannesburg

14. INVISIBLE BORDERS: Trans-African Photographers
an artists’ organization founded in 2011, based in Lagos

15. JULIEN, Isaac
b. 1960 United Kingdom, lives and works in London

16. KAMBALU, Samson
b. 1975 Malawi, lives and works in London

17. KNGWARREYE, Emily Kame
b. 1910 – d. 1996, Australia

18. LIGON, Glenn
b. 1960 United States, lives and works in New York

19. MABUNDA, Gonçalo
b. 1975 Mozambique, lives and works in Maputo

20. MAHAMA, Ibrahim
b. 1987 Ghana, lives and works in Tamale

21. MANSARAY, Abu Bakarr
b. 1970 Sierra Leone, lives and works in Freetown and the Netherlands

22. MARSHALL, Kerry James
b. 1955 United States, lives and works in Chicago

23. McQUEEN, Steve
b. 1969 United Kingdom, lives and works in Amsterdam

24. MORAN, Jason
b. 1975 United States, lives and works in New York

25. MUNROE, Lavar
b. 1982 Bahamas, lives and works between Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Washington DC.

26. MURILLO, Oscar
b. 1986 Colombia, lives and works in London

27. MUTU, Wangechi
b. 1972 Kenya, lives and works in New York

28. NDIAYE, Cheikh
b. 1970 Senegal, lives and works in New York, Dakar and Lyon

29. OFILI, Chris
b. 1968 United Kingdom, lives and works in London and Trinidad

30. OGBOH, Emeka
b. 1977 Nigeria, lives and works in Lagos and Berlin

31. PIPER, Adrian
b. 1948 United States, lives and works in Berlin

32. SENGHOR, Fatou Kandé
b 1971 Senegal, lives and works in Dakar

33. SIMMONS, Gary
b. 1964 United States, lives and works in New York

34. SIMPSON, Lorna
b. 1960 United States, lives and works in New York

35. TOGUO, Barthélémy
b. 1967 Cameroon, lives and works in Paris and Bandjoun

See full artist list here. CT


Both a curator and critic, Okwui Enwezor’s hefty “Contemporary African Art Since 1980,” is the first major survey of contemporary African artists situated throughout the diaspora, while “Events of the Self,” examines contemporary African photography in the Walther Collection. The catalog “David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material,” accompanies a current exhibition surveying Adjaye’s architecture, which is on view a Haus der Kunst in Munich, where Enwezor serves as director and curated the show. The catalog for “All the World’s Futures: 56 International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia,” is expected in August.


TOP IMAGE: Okwui Enwezor | Photo via Phaidon


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