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Insights

The Star of The 2022 Venice Biennale? Women.


This year’s Venice Biennale was history making in every way. For one, it took place after a year break due to the pandemic. But the return of arguably the world’s most important art event was not only significant because of the one-year hiatus, its return brought with it a previously unprecedented number of women artists, thanks to the fearless leadership of New York-based Italian curator Cecliia Alemani, who served as the Artistic Director of this year’s event. For the first time ever, women outnumbered men in the main halls of the Biennale. Meanwhile, Alemani was only the fourth female curator in the Biennale’s 59 editions.

In other history-making news, artist Simone Leigh served as the first Black woman to represent the U.S. at the Biennale. Her stunning, 16-foot sculpture “Brick House”—originally commissioned by Alemani for New York City’s High Line—welcomed visitors in the opening gallery of the central exhibition and led to Leigh taking home the coveted Golden Lion award for Best Participant. The UK’s Sonia Boyce also took home the Golden Lion, hers for Best National Participation, making her and Leigh both the first Black women to represent their nations in the Biennale’s 127-year history, as well as to win the prestigious awards. In the U.S. Pavilion, Leigh’s exhibition, “Sovereignty,” included a makeover over of the Jeffersonian building, giving it a thatched roof inspired by an African Rondavel. Inside the show, Leigh’s ceramics, bronzes and videos referenced how African diaspora has been represented in art throughout the years.

The Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation was proud to support both the ICA
(Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston) presentation of Simone Leigh’s U.S.
pavilion and Alemani’s main show, “The Milk of Dreams.” “The importance, history
and popularity of Venice in the art world is undisputed, but its track record
in featuring women artists has been abysmal,” says Sue Wrigley. “When Cecilia
called and asked for our support and described her bold—and frankly long
overdue—curatorial plans of including so many women artists, I felt like it was
the perfect opportunity for our foundation to have long-lasting impact on a
global level. I also knew that in the deft and thoughtful hands of Cecilia, the
exhibition would be diverse and elegiac, with a fresh perspective. And, it was
our privilege to also support the ICA’s presentation of Simone’s U.S. Pavilion.
We own her work, and we honored her at Anderson Ranch [in Snowmass, Colorado]
in the summer of 2021, and I adore ICA Director Jill Medvedow. But perhaps most
compelling was the opportunity to be part of the team behind the first Black
woman representing our country.” Given the Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation’s
commitment to overcoming the dramatic underrepresentation of women in the arts,
this groundbreaking year for the Venice Biennale was a particularly rewarding
one for us to be able to show our support. “This project is the result of an
ocean of talent and the commitment by many, many people, working over the
course of many, many months,” says ICA Director of Development Katrina Foster.
“We are very grateful for support from the Hostetler/Wrigley Foundation, which
was instrumental to the successful realization of Simone Leigh’s expansive and
ambitious artistic vision.”