Kapwani Kiwanga, a closely watched artist on the international stage, will represent Canada at the 2024 Venice Biennale, which will open in April of that year. She is the first Black woman that will show at the country’s pavilion and only the second Black artist to take on the project, after Stan Douglas, who was selected for the 2022 edition.
Kiwanga, who was born in Canada and is now based in Paris, is known for her research-based practice that takes the form in a variety of mediums, from sculpture and installation to photography, video, and performance. She often casts an eye toward the histories of those that have been forcibly marginalized, forgotten, or erased, focusing on the transatlantic slave trade, the Green Book, and the floral arrangements of various diplomatic gatherings with African nations.
Kiwanga has won many of the world’s top artist prizes, including the Sobey Art Award (for Canadian artists) in 2018, the Prix Marcel Duchamp (for France-based artists) in 2020, and the Zurich Art Prize (for an exhibition at the Museum Haus Konstruktiv) in 2022. She has had solo exhibitions at the New Museum in New York, the Kunstinstituut Melly (formerly the Witte de With) in Rotterdam, the Haus der Kunst in Munich, the Power Plant in Toronto, South London Gallery, and the Jeu de Paume in Paris. Last year, she was in the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale.
The National Gallery of Canada is the commissioner of the Canadian Pavilion, and Kiwanga’s presentation will be curated by Gaëtane Verna, who was appointed as executive director of the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and was previously director of the Power Plant.
“Kapwani Kiwanga delves into the archives of the world and conducts in-depth research that is woven elegantly throughout her artworks,” Verna said in a statement. “She is interested in the role of art as a catalyst for revealing and addressing alternative and often silenced, marginalized sociopolitical narratives that are part of our shared histories.”
Kiwanga was selected by a selection consisting of Daisy Desrosiers, director and chief curator, Gund Gallery at Kenyon College; Heather Igloliorte, co-director of the Indigenous Futures Research Centre at Concordia University; Michelle Jacques, the chief Curator at Remai Modern; Adelina Vlas, head of curatorial affairs at the Power Plant; and artist Tania Willard. The committee was co-chaired by two National Gallery of Canada curators: Michelle LaVallee, director of Indigenous Ways and Decolonization, and Jonathan Shaughnessy, director of curatorial initiatives.
A number of countries have begun announcing their picks for artists to take over their national pavilions, including John Akomfrah for Great Britain, Julien Creuzet for France, and Edith Karlson for Estonia. Additionally, curator Adriano Pedrosa was chosen to organize the main exhibition of the Biennale, which is unrelated to the national pavilions.
In a statement, LaVallee and Shaughnessy said, “Kiwanga’s interdisciplinary approach to art making has received international attention for its eye-opening investigations into the structures, systems, and narratives underlying today’s power asymmetries. The treatment of space for Kiwanga is an artistic gesture. Working across sculpture, mixed-media installation and performance, her projects often pay close attention to the sites in and on which they are exhibited.”