Art Market

Ghana’s first Venice Biennale pavilion will be designed by David Adjaye.

Benjamin Sutton
Feb 27, 2019 4:22PM, via press release

John Akomfrah, Mimesis: Seven Ambiguities of Colonial Disenchantment, 2018, three channel HD color video installation, 7.1 sound, 73 minutes. © Smoking Dogs Films, courtesy Lisson Gallery.

Ghana is aiming to make a splash in its Venice Biennale debut this spring, with a group exhibition featuring art stars John Akomfrah, El Anatsui, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, in a pavilion designed by starchitect David Adjaye. The Ghana pavilion, curated by Nana Oforiatta Ayim (with 2015 Venice Biennale curator Okwui Enwezor serving as a “strategic advisor”), will be located at the Arsenale and will feature artists’ works installed in a series of connected elliptical spaces plastered with Ghanaian mud. In addition to Akomfrah, Yiadom-Boakye, and El Anatsui, the pavilion’s roster of artists from Ghana and of Ghanaian origin will include the sculptor Ibrahim Mahama, the photographer Felicia Abban, and a “video sculpture” by Selasi Awusi Sosu, per a press release.

Ibrahim Mahama, Non Orientable Paradise Lost 1667, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 2017. Photo © Ibrahim Mahama, courtesy White Cube.

In a statement, Ayim frames her vision for the Ghana pavilion in the context of the migrant crisis and ongoing efforts to repatriate African art, saying:

The conversation about nations is broadening in the face of issues of migrations; of us redefining our connections to our diasporas throughout our ‘year of return’; of discussing what it might mean to have our cultural objects returned, and how we thus might redefine ourselves in the world; and of finally moving out of the ‘postcolonial’ moment into one we have yet to envision.

After its run in Venice, the exhibition—officially titled “Ghana Freedom” after E.T. Mensah’s pro-independence anthem of 1957—will go on view in Accra. The 2019 Venice Biennale opens May 11 and runs through November 24. Ghana won’t be the only country making its debut at the “Olympics of the art world” this year; Pakistan has tapped artist Naiza H. Khan for its first-ever Venice Biennale pavilion.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Radical Trysts, 2018, oil on linen. Courtesy Corvi-Mora, London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; photo © Marcus Leith.

Benjamin Sutton