“You can absorb the traumas of time, but also open yourself to the future”: Cecilia Alemani on curating her Venice Biennale for anxious times


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In April, after two trying years apart during the pandemic, the international artistic community will gather on the magical, watery islands of Venice for its periodic ritual evaluation of what the world’s best artists have thought and done to fight against our change. world.

They call this culminating event the Venice Biennale, and each time it has been presided over by a visionary figure whose role has been to transmute the work of all these artists into a cohesive discourse on our time. This year, this exalted figure is called Cecilia Alemani. In the Biennale’s 127-year history, Alemani is the fifth woman to curate the exhibition. In 2017 she hosted the Italian pavilion – the largest national pavilion there – which she says gave her a “definite advantage”.

In the end, the Venice Biennale is just one big exhibition, and Alemani is a professional curator, whose day job is to curate art for New York’s High Line. But the show still has a religious aura, offering mere mortals the chance to commune with the biggest and best ideas floating around the world. And this time around, the world has a rare and urgent need for big ideas, with existential crises raging all around us, demanding accountability.

In this week’s interview, Alemani zooms in from his apartment in Venice, between the Arsenale and the Giardini, as art managers and artists rush to install large works and finalize presentations for the pavilion. For Alemani, acting IRL is a welcome change after two years of isolation, as she worked to forge exposure as the world teetered around her.

“Because the whole process of my show was mediated by the screen, the show is actually quite the opposite,” Alemani said. “It’s extremely concrete materially.”

Titled “The Milk of Dreams” after a book by surrealist artist and author Leonora Carrington, which the curator describes as “very simple, very joyful, but also quite macabre”, the exhibition suggests an appropriate symmetry with our own Moment: The Surrealist movement emerged in 1924 just after the end of World War I, partly as a reaction against totalitarianism and militarization.

In addition to the horrific invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in February, “If you think about the last six years with Trump and everything that’s happened,” Alemani noted, “you could say he There is a sort of parallel between the two historic moments.”

This week, we’re delighted to welcome Alemani to Art Angle, where she spoke with Artnet News Editor-in-Chief Andrew Goldstein about the difficulty of curating an exhibition via Zoom and what it means to us. reserve for all in Venice. .

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