The Venice Biennale announced last week the list of artists who will participate in the main exhibition of its 58th edition, which takes place between May 11 and November 24, 2019 in the Italian city. The show, entitled “May You Live in Interesting Times”, is curated by American Ralph Rugoff – director of London's Hayward Gallery and curator of the 2015 Lyon Biennale – and will have 79 participants.
The number is much lower than in the last editions – there were 120 artists in 2017 and 138 in 2015 – and presents unprecedented gender parity, with almost half of women on the list. It is also noteworthy that more than a third of the artists were born in the 1980s.
One of the great novelties of the exhibition is that it will be divided into two parts, one set up in the Arsenal and the other in the Giardini, and all the artists will be present, with different works, in both sections. The idea is to create a “multivalent and richly ambiguous” exhibition, in Rugoff's words, that deals with a “divided social reality”. According to the curator, the exhibition's theme is broad precisely to encompass the complex nature of the works, open to multiple readings and with room for paradoxes and contradictions.
Despite the apparent optimism, the title “May You Live in Interesting Times” refers to an ancient Chinese curse that wished for times of uncertainty and turmoil. In this way, according to Rugoff, the edition intends to cover themes related to the global moment of crisis, precariousness and mistrust. However, he will not stop talking about possible alternatives, encounters, pleasure and the “creative learning that art makes possible”.
The Venice Biennale will bring together, in addition to the main exhibition, representations from 90 countries (with their own curators), in addition to parallel exhibitions throughout the city. Brazil, which has no artist present at the general exhibition, presents in its national pavilion the work of Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, curated by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro.