10 Highly Anticipated Pavilions at the Venice Biennale 2022

Allyssia Alleyne
Apr 20, 2021 7:49PM

Sonia Boyce, installation view of For you, only you, 2007. © Sonia Boyce. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo by Mike Pollard. Courtesy of the artist.

Even at the time of the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, its theme, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” evoked an ominous foreshadowing. But two years on, with much of the world still locked down in the face of a global pandemic, it feels like a curse has been realized politically and socially.

Last June, the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale was pushed to May 2021, while the 59th edition of the Art Biennale, originally intended to open next month, was pushed back to 2022. And today, with one year to go until the so-called Olympics of art, little is known about what the event has in store.

Stan Douglas
Kung - Fu Fighting, 1975, 2012
Goodman Gallery

Speaking to ARTnews after the postponement was announced, Cecilia Alemani, curator of the Biennale’s central exhibition (as well as director and chief curator of New York’s High Line Art program), made it clear she’s “not interested in being remembered for doing ‘the coronavirus biennial.’” She added that the artists would still engage with the issues of the day, as they’ve always done.

Though many countries that will present national pavilions in Venice next year have yet to reveal the artists who will be representing them, we’re already seeing a diverse mix of familiar and fresh faces. Here, we share the artists of the 10 national pavilions we’re looking forward to seeing at the 59th Venice Biennale next year.

Marco Fusinato

Australian pavilion

Marco Fusinato, performance view of SPECTRAL ARROWS: Melbourne at Buxton Contemporary, Melbourne, 2018. © Marco Fusinato. Photo by Renato Colangelo. Courtesy of the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery.

Since his inclusion in “Soundings: A Contemporary Score,” the first Museum of Modern Art exhibition dedicated to sound art, Melbourne-based artist Marco Fusinato has become known for blurring the lines between music, noise, and art.

Though he works across photography, musical composition, and performance, his most memorable works are his brash installations. At the 2018 Biennale of Sydney, for example, he amplified the sound of visitors bashing a 130-foot white wall with a baseball bat through hidden speakers for his work Constellations (2015), while Aetheric Plexus (Broxen X) (2013) saw Fusinato blast crowds with 36,000 watts of white light and 105 decibels of white noise.

Under the curatorial eye of Alexie Glass-Kantor, the executive director of Artspace in Sydney and curator of Art Basel in Hong Kong’s Encounters program (which features installations specifically), it seems likely that Fusinato will bring a similarly intense experience to the Australian pavilion.

Partners in life and in dreamlike, pattern-filled, candy-colored multimedia art, Jakob Lena Knebl and Ashley Hans Scheirl beat out 59 competitors for the opportunity to bring their spirited double act to Venice. The pavilion is being curated by Karola Kraus, director of Vienna’s Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien.

At the 15th Lyon Biennale in 2019, Knebl and Scheirl created a multi-level space within a cavernous former factory that appeared to be a cross between a concept store and a Surrealist painting. The space was furnished with towering self-portraits, mirrored floors, a fashion collection, and unsettling statuettes. But for the Venice Biennale, they’re thinking even bigger: In an attempt to “undermine the hierarchies of art and design” found in traditional institutions, the Austrian pavilion will become a stage upon which both visitors and the objects on show—ranging from textiles and photographs to holograms and videos—are part of a larger work themed around gender, desire, humor, and sensuality.

Francis Alÿs

Belgian pavilion

Francis Alÿs
Untitled (Don't Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River), 2006-2008
David Zwirner

Francis Alÿs embodies the spirit of internationalism at the heart of the Venice Biennale. Over the course of his career, which has included solo shows at MoMA, Kunstmuseum Basel, and Tate Britain, he’s demonstrated a long-standing, cosmopolitan interest in borders and how everyday life persists against the backdrop of conflict.

In 1999, 2001, and 2007, he was selected to show as part of the Venice Biennale’s central exhibition, under the guidance of each year’s curator; in 2017, at the Iraqi pavilion, he showed a series of works inspired by the nine days he spent embedded with Kurdish army forces outside Mosul in 2016. But this time around, the Mexico-based artist will officially be the star of the show, as he represents his home country in the Giardini.

According to his gallery, David Zwirner, Alÿs will be picking up where he left off in 2017. The new work will spin off from Children’s Games #19: Haram Football (2017), filmed in Mosul, which captured children playing a sport that was, at the time, forbidden by the occupying Islamic State.

Stan Douglas

Canadian pavilion

Since the 1980s, Stan Douglas, one of Canada’s most well-known contemporary artists, has used film, photography, installation, and theater to propose alternative histories and speculate on the future.

“Douglas is one of the country’s most internationally respected artists, with a practice recognized for its critical imagination, formal ingenuity and deep commitment to social enquiry,” the selection committee said in a statement, citing his “continuing re-imagination of the mediums of photography and multi-channel film and video installation, together with his paradigmatic investigations into the relation of local histories with generational social forces” as factors that led to his unanimous selection.

Next year will be Douglas’s fourth time participating in the Venice Biennale. His most recent appearance was at the 2019 central exhibition, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” where his two-channel video work Doppelgänger (2019) was met with critical acclaim.

Zsófia Keresztes

Hungarian pavilion

Zsófia Keresztes, Easy targets, heavy bites I, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Elijah Wheat Showroom.

Portrait of Zsófia Keresztes by Philip Hinge / Dávid Biró. Courtesy of the artist.

Born in 1985, Zsófia Keresztes’s fantastical sculptures tick the boxes when it comes to millennial aesthetics: pastel colors, curvilinear shapes, commentary on the anxieties of life online. Somehow appearing at once solid and squishy, and glimmery with intricate glass mosaics, the artist’s works have already earned her comparisons to Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and French-American sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle.

Speaking with Artsy last year on the occasion of her first exhibition in the United States—at Elijah Wheat Showroom in New York—Keresztes spoke of her commitment to living and working in her hometown of Budapest, but admitted that it was a tricky place from which to build an international art career. Showing in Venice should offer an ample boost in profile.

Zineb Sedira

French pavilion

Less than a week after Zineb Sedira was crowned France’s representative, calls for her removal started flooding in. Vocal critics in France and Israel alleged she was connected to the controversial Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli occupation of the West Bank—accusations that Sedira denied and condemned as “unfounded and slanderous.”

While the controversy may have dented an otherwise proud moment, Sedira is continuing on undaunted. She selected the pavilion’s curatorial team: Yasmina Reggad, a longtime collaborator; and Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, the curatorial duo of Art Reoriented, who are also curating the 2022 Lyon Biennale.

Sedira, who was born in Paris to Algerian parents and now lives in London, is renowned for photographic and video works that look at identity, memory, and colonialism from autobiographical and documentary lenses. Her work has already been widely exhibited in Europe and the Middle East, including in group shows at the Centre Pompidou, Tate Britain, and Stedelijk Museum, yet showing in France’s pavilion in the Giardini will bring her poignant message to her largest audience yet.

Maria Eichhorn

German pavilion

Maria Eichhorn, detail of Unlawfully acquired books from Jewish ownership, 2017, from “Rose Valland Institute,” at documenta 14, Neue Galerie, Kassel. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021. Photo by Mathias Völzke. Courtesy of the artist.

Based in Berlin, Maria Eichhorn has converted the legal status of buildings, bought and sold a plot of land, and shut down London’s Chisenhale Gallery in the name of conceptual art, drawing attention to the unseen economic, social, and political machinations of the art world.

In a statement published to the German pavilion’s website, curator Yilmaz Dziewior announced that he and Eichhorn will be focusing on “aspects of political and cultural representation and what artistic production means to society” in German history. Eichhorn has explored this theme through her ongoing Rose Valland Institute project, which looks at the Nazi expropriation of property owned by European Jews.

The exhibition will relate to the history of the physical pavilion itself, which was inaugurated by the Nazis in 1938 and remains an exemplar of fascist architecture. In a published conversation with Dziewior, Eichhorn hinted at what lies ahead: “The work is accessible. It can be experienced both conceptually and—physically and in motion—on site.”

Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara, and Anders Sunna

Sámi pavilion

Portrait of Pauliina Feodoroff by Josef Idivouma. Courtesy of the artist.

Anders Sunna
Indigenous Love, 2008-2013

For the first time, the Nordic pavilion—which represents Finland, Norway, and Sweden—is changing its name to the Sámi pavilion, in a historic recognition of the region’s indigenous population. The exhibition will feature three Sámi artists, each of whom engage heavily with social, political, and environmental issues facing their communities: Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara, and Anders Sunna, who are best known for their directing, installation, and painting, respectively.

“The global pandemic, the impact of climate change and worldwide calls for decolonisation are leading us all to focus on alternative possibilities for our future and that of our planet,” said Katya García-Antón, director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway and lead commissioner for the pavilion, in a statement. “At this pivotal moment, it is vital to consider Indigenous ways of relating to the environment and to each other. The artworks of Feodoroff, Sara and Sunna in the Sámi Pavilion will present compelling visions of how these relationships operate, from a Sámi perspective.”

Sonia Boyce

British pavilion

Sonia Boyce, Devotional, 2018. © Sonia Boyce. All Rights Reserved, DACS/Artimage 2020. Photo by Mike Pollard. Courtesy o the artist and Manchester Art Gallery.

Recently featured in The Artsy Vanguard 2020, British-Caribbean artist Sonia Boyce will make history next year as the first Black woman to represent the United Kingdom at the Venice Biennale. Emma Ridgway, chief curator of Modern Art Oxford, will serve as the pavilion’s associate curator.

A major figure in the British Black Arts Movement of the 1980s, Boyce is a celebrated photographer, printmaker, and producer of performances. She has repeatedly proven herself a master of reflection, collaboration, and improvisation—qualities that ingratiated her to the British pavilion selection committee.

When the news was announced in early 2020, committee chair Emma Dexter praised Boyce—who has recently shown at the Manchester Gallery of Art and London’s Institute of Contemporary Art—as an artist “whose work embodies inclusiveness, generosity, experimentation and the importance of working together.”

Simone Leigh

U.S. pavilion

Simone Leigh
Las Meninas II, 2019
Goodman Gallery
Simone Leigh
Village Series , 2020
Hauser & Wirth

Following two consecutive exhibitions by Black male artists—Martin Puryear and Mark Bradford—Simone Leigh will become the first Black woman to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. The pavilion is being co-commissioned by Jill Medvedow and Eva Respini, the director and chief curator, respectively, of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

Leigh, who exhibited in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and won the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize, is known for large-scale ceramics that turn Black women into busts, jugs, and architectural forms. She hasn’t revealed much about her Venice plans so far, beyond the fact that the her work would be rooted in some texts of Black feminist theory.

Speaking to the New York Times last fall, 2022 Biennale curator Alemani—who commissioned Leigh’s 16-foot-tall Brick House bronze sculpture for the inaugural High Line Plinth Commission in 2019—said, “Her challenge will be to turn [the U.S. pavilion] upside down metaphorically with the stories that she’ll be able to tell through her artwork.”

Allyssia Alleyne