Artists from the Global Margins Offer Prominent Exhibition Highlights at the 2019 Venice Biennale for Contemporary Art
The 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, which is the oldest international art exhibition, has opened to the public in May 2019. As part of this, a bevy of professional previewers from media outlets around the world have browsed its pavilions and appreciated its artworks for notable highlights.
A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.
As Jason Farago of The New York Times notes, this international exhibition, curated in 2019 by Ralph Rugoff, has included about 80 artists in addition to 90 national pavilions organized independently.
In 2019, the top jury prize awarded for best national pavilion went to a performance art work by three artists from Lithuania. Notably, 2019 was the first time that Ghana was represented at the Venice biennial. This country’s pavilion has featured the Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye that has installed in a section of the Arsenale temporary internal walls made of African soil. Additionally, the philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah has written a catalog essay for this show.
As opposed to its more intellectual group exhibitions in previous years, the Fondazione Prada has hosted a solo show of Jannis Kounellis, a Greek-born Italian artist, who died in 2017. His poetic installations have made Kounellis a key figure of the Arte Povera artistic movement.1
Similarly, per George Webster from CNN, the Giardini area, located in the eastern part of Venice, is the garden that hosts dozens of national pavilions dedicated to the display of contemporary art works from the countries participating in the Venice Biennale. In the Giardini, the “Ghana Freedom” exhibition is one of the more spectacular ones. Named after the E. T. Mensah song celebrating independence from the British colonial rule in 1957, the pavilion-based exhibition explores the “legacies and trajectories of that freedom.” The show does this through the work of six artists spanning three generations, according to the curatorial commentary.
This pavilion offers an expression of Ghana’s history that acknowledges the country’s colonial experience. In the 2019 edition of the Venice Biennale, many artists have offered a political critique of their countries. One of this year’s most interesting exhibitions comes from the Brazilian pavilion. In this pavilion, a double-screen video installation called “Swinguerra” provided a flamboyant response to the far-right rhetoric of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President.
The Dutch pavilion has featured another exhibition highlight consisting of works by Surinamese-origin artists. Referring to Suriname that was a colony of the Netherlands until 1975, Iris Kensmil has exhibited large portraits of dark-skinned women that draw on the avant-garde traditions of utopian black feminism. Turner Prize-winning artist Laure Provoust exhibiting at the French pavilion has stated that, “in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have national barriers.” According to president of the Venice Biennale, Paolo Baratta, this is precisely the point of this year’s show.2
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: Venice Biennial 2019 (May You Live in Interesting Times), Venice, Italy, May 19, 2019 | © Courtesy of MANYBITS/Flickr.
- Farago, Jason. “Soaking Up Highlights of the Venice Biennale.” New York Times, 14 May 2019, p. C1(L). Gale General OneFile, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A585333169/ITOF?u=lirn17237&sid=ITOF&xid=05b24fb3. Accessed 4 Nov. 2019.
- Webster, George. (2019). “Venice Biennale 2019: Best of the national pavilions.” CNN Wire, 22 May 2019. Gale Academic OneFile Select, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A586264592/EAIM?u=lirn17237&sid=EAIM&xid=00c2c15d. Accessed 4 Nov. 2019.