AN INTERNATIONAL SLATE of 79 artists has been selected to participate in the main exhibition at the 58th Venice Biennale. This year’s edition of the international exhibition is titled “May You Live in Interesting Times” and is curated by Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery in London. The 2019 Venice Biennale is May 11-Nov. 24, 2019.

Rugoff has invited artists from around the world to contribute to the exhibition in the Central Pavilion. Announced today, the list includes 13 artists of African descent, including Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Michael Armitage, Arthur Jafa, Kahlil Joseph, Tavares Strachan, Julie Mehretu, Zanele Muholi, Henry Taylor, and Kemang Wa Lehulere. Four of them live and work in Los Angeles: Akunyili Crosby, Jafa, Joseph, and Taylor.

The larger group features artists such as Carol Bove, George Condo, Nicole Eisenman, Anthony Hernandez, Christian Marclay, Rosemarie Trockel, and Danh Vo.

In addition, there are 90 countries participating. Each is programming a national pavilion with artists representing their home country. Sculptor Martin Puryear is representing the United States and will mount a solo exhibition in the U.S. pavilion curated by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, deputy director and senior curator at the Madison Square Park Conservancy. Titled “Martin Puryear: Liberty/Martin Puryear: Libertà,” the exhibition will feature new sculpture including a monumental work installed in the central courtyard of the U.S. Pavilion.

Algeria, Ghana, Madagascar, and Pakistan are participating in the biennale for the first time. British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye is designing Ghana’s inaugural pavilion where work by internationally recognized artists Felicia Abban, John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, Selasi Awusi Sosu, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye will be on view. Titled “Ghana Freedom,” the exhibition is curated by filmmaker Nana Oforiatta Ayim and Okwui Enwezor, artistic director of 56th Venice Biennale, is serving as a strategic advisor.

The organizers had much to say about “May You Live in Interesting Times,” the title of this year’s edition. Paolo Baratta, chair of the 2019 Venice Biennale acknowledged its layered meaning in a statement. “The title of this Exhibition could be interpreted as a sort of curse,” he said, “where the expression ‘interesting times’ evokes the idea of challenging or even ‘menacing’ times, but it could also simply be an invitation to always see and consider the course of human events in their complexity, an invitation, thus, that appears to be particularly important in times when, too often, oversimplification seems to prevail, generated by conformism or fear.”

Baratta continued: “And I believe that an exhibition of art is worth our attention, first and foremost, if it intends to present us with art and artists as a decisive challenge to all oversimplifying attitudes.”

 


Clockwise, from top left, Participating artists include Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Michael Armitage, Julie Mehretu, Otobong Nkanga, and Arthur Jafa. | Photos MacArthur Foundation; via Turner Contemporary video; Anastasia Muna; via MCA Chicago video; Robert Hamacher

 

“In an indirect fashion, perhaps art can be a kind of guide for how to live and think in ‘interesting times.’ …The Exhibition will focus on the work of artists who challenge existing habits of thought and open up our readings of objects and images, gestures and situations.” — Curator Ralph Rugoff

Rugoff weighed in, explaining his interpretation of “May You Live in Interesting Times” and his vision for the exhibition. In a statement, he said, it “will no doubt include artworks that reflect upon precarious aspects of existence today, including different threats to key traditions, institutions and relationships of the ‘post-war order.’ But let us acknowledge at the outset that art does not exercise its forces in the domain of politics. Art cannot stem the rise of nationalist movements and authoritarian governments in different parts of the world, for instance, nor can it alleviate the tragic fate of displaced peoples across the globe (whose numbers now represent almost one percent of the world’s entire population).”

The curator continued: “But in an indirect fashion, perhaps art can be a kind of guide for how to live and think in ‘interesting times.’ The 58th International Art Exhibition will not have a theme per se, but will highlight a general approach to making art and a view of art’s social function as embracing both pleasure and critical thinking. The Exhibition will focus on the work of artists who challenge existing habits of thought and open up our readings of objects and images, gestures and situations.” CT

 

Participating artists include:

1. Akunyili Crosby, Njideka
b. 1983 Nigeria, lives and works in Los Angeles

2. Armitage, Michael
b. 1984 Kenya, lives and works in London and Nairobi

3. Douglas, Stan
b. 1960 Canada, lives and works in Vancouver

4. Hamilton, Anthea
b. 1978 United Kingdom, lives and works in London

5. Jafa, Arthur
b. 1960 USA, lives and works in Los Angeles

6. Joseph, Kahlil
b. 1981 USA, lives and works in Los Angeles

7. Mehretu, Julie
b. 1970 Ethiopia, lives and works in New York

8. Muholi, Zanele
b. 1972 Republic of South Africa, lives and works in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town

9. Nkanga, Otobong
b. 1974 Nigeria, lives and works in Antwerp

10. Orupabo, Frida
b. 1986 Norway, lives and works in Oslo

11. Strachan, Tavares
b. 1979 The Bahamas, lives and works in New York

12. Taylor, Henry
b. 1958 USA, lives and works in Los Angeles

13. Wa Lehulere, Kemang
b. 1984 Republic of South Africa, lives and works in Cape Town

 

SEE FULL LIST of participating artists

 

TOP IMAGE: La Biennale di Venezia

 

BOOKSHELF
Each edition of the Venice Biennale is accompanied by a catalog. “All the World’s Futures: 56 International Art Exhibition. La Biennale di Venezia” documents the 2015 exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor. “Viva Arte Viva: 57th International Art Exhibition: La Biennale Di Venezia” coincides with the most recent 2017 event. Finally, “Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day” documents Mark Bradford’s 2017 solo exhibition in the U.S. Pavilion.

 

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