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60th Venice Biennale - US Pavilion Jeffrey Gibson

7 Must-See Venice Pavilions: U.S., Brazil, Korea, Benin, and More

The 60th Venice Biennale, which opens later this month, promises visceral, site-specific, and cross-generational works of art, culminating in a journey through individual and collective identity, nostalgia, and metamorphosis. Here we spotlight the pavilions you won’t want to miss, including the U.S., Nigeria, Hãhãwpuá (Brazil), Korea, Benin, Germany, and Senegal Pavilions.

As we get ready for the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, open April 20—November 24, 2024, we’re sharing the must-see Venice Pavilions. Under the curation of Adriano Pedrosa, with the theme of Stranieri Ovunque—”Foreigners Everywhere”—here’s a preview of the spellbinding artistic and cultural explorations by the artist representatives of the U.S., Nigeria, Hãhãwpuá (Brazil), Korea, Benin, Germany, and Senegal Pavilions. 

Jeffrey Gibson Uplifts Indigenous, Queer, and American Histories at the U.S. Pavilion

60th Venice Biennale - US Pavilion Jeffrey Gibson

Jeffrey Gibson, “ONCE MORE WITH FEELING,” photo by Max Yawney, courtesy of the artist.

Interdisciplinary artist Jeffrey Gibson uplifts Indigenous, Queer, and American historical narratives alongside music and pop culture references in “the space in which to place me.” The immersive and symphonic exhibition is the inaugural solo show by an Indigenous artist at the Biennale. Commissioned by Kathleen Ash-Milby, Louis Grachos, and Abigail Winograd, and presented by Portland Art Museum and SITE Santa Fe, kaleidoscopic multimedia paintings, sculpture, paintings on paper, and video works meditate on the nuances of personal and collective identities. Invoking two decades of artistic, social, and cultural exploration, Gibson’s enigmatic title pays respect to Oglala Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier’s captivating poem Ȟe Sápa, and upon opening day a dance program on-site will feature rapturous performances by the Colorado Intertribal Dancers and Oklahoma Fancy Dancers

“Throughout his career, Jeffrey has challenged us to look at the world differently through his innovative and vibrant work,” said Ash-Milby. “His inclusive and collaborative approach is a powerful commentary on the influence and persistence of Native American cultures within the United States and globally, making him the ideal representative for the United States at this moment.”

The Nigeria Pavilion Unveils Site-Specific Artworks at Palazzo Canal in Dorsoduro

60th Venice Biennale - Nigeria Pavilion, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA

Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, “The Bird Catcher’s Dilemma,” 2019 – 2020; photo by Stephen White & Co. Collection of Salzburg Museum, Austria, © Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and New York.

For Nigeria’s second participation in the Venice Biennale, the comprehensive exhibition “Nigeria Imaginary” will unveil a parade of site-specific artworks created by a dynamic group of cross-generational visionaries. Within the majestic Palazzo Canal in Dorsoduro, Aindrea Emelife, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at MOWAA, the Museum of West African Art in Benin City, Nigeria, unites the work of Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Ndidi Dike, Onyeka Igwe, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Abraham Oghobase, Precious Okoyomon, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, and Fatimah Tuggar for a riveting exhibition by cutting-edge creatives of Nigeria and its Diaspora. 

“‘Nigeria Imaginary’ will explore the many Nigerias that live in our minds, curated to capture a sense of optimism imbued in inherited and collective cultural history,” explained Emelife. “Articulated through different perspectives and constructed ideas, mediums and disciplines, nostalgias for Nigeria and visions of the Nigeria that is yet to be, Nigeria Imaginary is a restless investigation of the legacies of the colonial past in today’s post-independence nation and a defiant imagining of a hopeful, youth-driven future.”

The Hãhãwpuá Pavilion of Brazil Tells a Story of Indigenous Resistance 

60th Venice Biennale - The Hãhãwpuá Pavilion of Brazil, Glicéria Tupinambá

Glicéria Tupinambá, “Manto tupinambá,” 2023, courtesy of the artist.

Curated by Arissana Pataxó, Denilson Baniwa, and Gustavo Caboco Wapichana, the Hãhãwpuá Pavilion of Brazil offers “Ka’a Pûera: we are walking birds,” a meaningful title which refers to low-lying vegetation in harvested cropland, as well as to the petite bird–known as the capoeira—who survives by way of camouflage in the forests. Artist Glicéria Tupinambá, who creates revelatory works with the Tupinambá Community of Serra do Padeiro and Olivença in Bahia, will present new projects in the Pavillion alongside Olinda Tupinambá and Ziel Karapotó. Unseen facets of rights violations, dispossession, and marginalization are skillfully brought to the surface through a poetic collaging of the power and fragility of nature and humanity. 

“The show brings together the Tupinambá Community and artists coming from the coastal peoples—the first to be transformed into foreigners in their own Hãhãw (ancestral territory)—in order to express a different perspective on the vast territory where more than three hundred indigenous peoples live (Hãhãwpuá),” said the curators. “The Hãhãwpuá Pavilion tells a story of indigenous resistance in Brazil, the strength of the body present in the retaking of territory and adaptation to climatic emergencies.”

The Korean Pavilion Illuminates Our Sense Memories with Artist Koo Jeong A. 

60th Venice Biennale - The Korean Pavilion, Koo Jeong A

Installation view of Koo Jeong A.’s “Constellation Congress,” 2010-II, © Koo Jeong A., courtesy of Dia Art Foundation, New York.

Commissioned by Arts Council Korea, the Korean Pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale, titled “ODORAMA CITIES,” spotlights Korean artist Koo Jeong A. and journeys through our subjective perception and memory of spaces, often defined by our keen sense of smell. Curated by Seolhui Lee and Jacob Fabricius, the exhibition unveils 17 exclusive scents that were derived from Koo’s open call for scent memories in the Korean peninsula last year. 

The provocative question “What is your scent memory of Korea?” gathered over 600 thoughtful, written messages by the public. In a continuation of the inspired artist’s study of transcendence and ethereality, a wooden floor is debuted within the Pavilion with soaring Möbius-shaped sculptures, as well as a levitating bronze figure that emits a transformative scent. 

Azu Nwagbogu Curates a Profound Benin Pavilion

60th Venice Biennale - Benin Pavilion, Moufouli Bello

Moufouli Bello, “EYELE,” 2021, 150 x 110 cm., acrylic on canvas; courtesy of the artist.

“Everything Precious Is Fragile” underpins the Benin Pavilion with works of revelatory art that spark dialogue on the horrors of the slave trade, the unique symbolism of the Amazon, and divine elements of the Vodun religion. Renowned curator Azu Nwagbogu, alongside curator Yassine Lassissi and scenographer Franck Houndégla, invites visitors to embark on the profound artistry of Chloé Quenum, Moufouli Bello, Ishola Akpo, and Romuald Hazoumè. The majesty of Beninese feminism unfolds in alluring imagery of female warriors and a rich and sacred cultural landscape, bringing new life to recently returned royal treasures, as well as time-honored modes of living and creating. 

“These artists embody the ethos of Benin, advocating for regeneration and [re]matriation—the return to the nurturing embrace of the mother—while simultaneously challenging the hierarchies that have silenced diverse voices,” explained Nwagbogu. “As the exhibition takes stage at the Arsenale, in Venice, it affords the opportunity to present ideas in Europe on the terms dictated by the artists and not as previously seen by conquest. It draws richly from Benin’s historical legacy and the recent restitution of cultural artifacts, deliberately incorporating narratives that confront the violence of removal and erasure inherent in the histories of these objects.”

The German Pavilion Debuts a Critical Reckoning of Migration 

60th Venice Biennale - German Pavilion artists

German Pavilion Portraits; photo by Andrea Rossetti and Nick Ash, courtesy of the artists.

The German Pavilion debuts “Thresholds,” a critical reckoning of the complex meeting point between the past and future through migration and modes of belonging. Three visceral scenarios lead visitors through the new exhibition. Artist Yael Bartana embarks on the tragedies of the present with imagination and hopefulness for a collective future, while visionary Ersan Mondtag reveals a dramatic universe of memory in constant flux. Artists Michael Akstaller, Nicole L’Huillier, Robert Lippok, and Jan St. Werner activate the island of Certosa outside the Giardini with radiant themes of progression through space and time. 

The Senegal Pavilion Shines with the Poignant, Signature Artistry of Alioune Diagne

60th Venice Biennale - The Senegal Pavilion, Alioune Diagne

Alioune Diagne, “Transition,” 2023-2024, Acrylic on canvas, 157 1/2 × 118 in.; © Laurent Edeline, courtesy of the artist and TEMPLON, Paris, Brussels, New York.

Ms. Marième Ba, Technical Counselor of the Ministry of Senegal’s Culture and Historical Patrimony and General Secretary of the Contemporary African Art of Dakar and the Senegalese Ministry of Culture and Historical Heritage, joins Massamba Mbaye, art critic, curator, and historian to present the works of Alioune Diagne at the Senegal Pavilion. 

The artist brings a hypnotic exhibition titled “Bokk—Bound” to Venice, enveloping visitors in his signature “figuro-abstro” style of painting. Energized by the dazzling nuances of calligraphy, Diagne evokes the ties that bind family and community through spellbinding and colorful script-like patterns, producing both realistic and dreamlike images of love, loyalty, and lineage. The chosen series of lush paintings creates an awe-inspiring display reminiscent of a puzzle, imparting emotional weavings of poverty, racism, education, and tradition, as well as commanding and wise female figures.  

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THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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The 60th edition of the Venice Biennale is currently on view, bringing together some of the most celebrated emerging and established artists in the world. We’ve compiled some of the best exhibitions on display.
The most anticipated Venice exhibitions by a global array of luminaries including Elias Sime, Ewa Juszkiewicz, and Berlinde De Bruyckere.

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