The 2024 edition of the Venice Biennale continues to take shape.
Kapwani Kiwanga, a multi-disciplinary artist whose research-driven projects probe the social, political, and economic histories embedded in familiar materials, will represent her home country of Canada in the prestigious show, set to open next April.
The news was announced today by the National Gallery of Canada, the institution responsible for commissioning the country’s pavilions in Venice.
For Kiwanga, the commission caps a recent string of accomplishments that have put her among the world’s most important working artists today. The Canadian-born, Paris-based artist took home the Zurich Art Prize last year, the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2020, and the Sobey Art Award in 2018. Recent solo shows have been mounted at the New Museum in New York, the Haus der Kunst in Munich, and the Jeu de Paume in Paris.
Kiwanga was also included in the main show at last year’s 59th Venice Biennale, for which she contributed a new installation of semitransparent paintings and glass sculptures filled with sand.
To make its selection, the National Gallery of Canada convened a committee of notable figures in the country’s art world, including Daisy Desrosiers, director and chief curator of the Gund Gallery at Kenyon College; Heather Igloliorte, co-director of the Indigenous Futures Research Centre; Michelle Jacques, head of exhibitions and collections and chief curator at Remai Modern; Adelina Vlas, head of curatorial affairs at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery; and Tania Willard, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.
The committee’s co-chairs—Michelle LaVallee, the National Gallery’s director of Indigenous Ways and Decolonization, and Jonathan Shaughnessy, director of curatorial initiatives—noted in a joint statement that “Kiwanga’s interdisciplinary approach to art-making has received international attention for its eye-opening investigations into the structures, systems, and narratives underlying today’s power asymmetries.”
“The treatment of space for Kiwanga is an artistic gesture,” LaVallee and Shaughnessy said. “Working across sculpture, mixed-media installation and performance, her projects often pay close attention to the sites in and on which they are exhibited.”
Kiwanga’s presentation at the biennale will be organized by Gaëtane Verna, a curator who recently departed her longtime position as director of Toronto’s Power Plant to head up the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University.
Verna praised Kiwanga’s interest in “the role of art as a catalyst for revealing and addressing alternative and often silenced, marginalized sociopolitical narratives that are part of our shared histories.”
The curator added that her work at the pavilion will be done “in continuous conversation” with the artist.
“I look forward to supporting her in every aspect of this momentous project in which she will undoubtedly transcend the materials that she will choose to use to transform our own understandings of the world,” Verna said.
With the Venice Biennale just over a year away, participating countries have recently begun announcing plans for their pavilions. Last month, Edith Karlson and Julien Creuzet were announced as the representatives for Estonia and France, respectively, while just this week John Akomfrah was chosen for Great Britain.
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