Hillary Clinton’s Emails Are on View in an Art Show in Venice. This Week She Came by and Read Them—Utterly Shocking the Artist

Kenneth Goldsmith, the artist behind the project, was shocked to learn of her visit to the show.

Hillary Clinton reading her emails at Kenneth Goldsmith's Venice exhibition “HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails.” Photo © Gerda Studio.

Earlier this week, while on a trip to Venice, Hillary Clinton made time to visit some of the many art shows on view during the Venice Biennale.

But one exhibition especially caught her attention: “HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,” an presentation made up entirely of a trove of her leaked emails published by WikiLeaks, and downloaded and printed by artist and poet Kenneth Goldsmith.

The artist was shocked by her surprise visit. A Clinton representative had reached out to the exhibition’s organizers before their arrival, but Goldsmith assumed they were joking. “I didn’t believe it until she came,” he told artnet News, adding that “never in a million years” had he imagined she would stop by.

But as unlikely as it might seem, Clinton spent an hour at the show on Tuesday with members of the curatorial team Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, who gave the former senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State a tour of the exhibition. (Goldsmith was already back in New York at the time.)

The show features a replica of the Oval Office’s Resolute Desk, where visitors can sit and sift through 60,000 pages of Clinton emails. Yet despite the many headlines the emails generated when they were first leaked, “they are just so boring,” Clinton said to the curators after visiting the show.

“This exhibition is further proof that nothing wrong or controversial can be found in these emails,” she said. “It makes them accessible to everyone and allows everyone to read them.”

Following the visit, Clinton tweeted a photograph of herself with the printed emails and included a sly message: “Found my emails at the Venice Biennale. Someone alert the House GOP.” (She also visited the central exhibition, according to the Daily Mail.)

Emails sent and received on Clinton’s private server during her time at the State Department became a major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. Her opponent, Donald Trump, even called on Russian hackers to make the emails public. An FBI investigation found that while Clinton had been careless in using an unsecured private server for official governmental business, she had not broken any laws.

But days before the election, FBI director James Comey announced that new emails were the subject of another inquiry. The issue is widely believed to have helped sway the election in Trump’s favor.

“It was one of the strangest, most absurd events in American political history,” Clinton told Italian press after leaving the exhibition. She compared the Venice exhibition to her book, What Happened, which also aims to explain why the email issue was such a controversy.

For Goldsmith, having Clinton personally experience the show she inspired is a dream come true.

“It’s incredible. It completes the circle, fulfills the proposition,” he says. “It’s almost as if the exhibition was waiting for her. After her visit, the show has turned into the major statement of the Biennale.”

The show is a collateral event for the Biennale staged by Venice’s Zuecca Projects at a Venetian grocery store that once housed a movie theater.

Kenneth Goldsmith’s “HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails” is on view at Despar Teatro Italiano, Campiello de l’Anconeta, 1944, 30121 Venezia, May 9–November 24, 2019.

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