‘Destructive Macho Power Needs to Be Overthrown’: Meet the Next Berlin Biennale’s All-Star Team of ‘Female Identified’ Curators

The four-member curatorial team hails from several South American nations in deep crisis.

The four curators of the next Berlin Biennale, in the official promotional photo supplied to press. Valencia, approx. 1973; Edmonton, approx. 1987; Buenos Aires, 1989; Kinshasa, 1963; (c) Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art.

Berlin may be a leading art capital of Europe, but the 2020 edition of the Berlin Biennial will again take a non-European perspective. Following up on South African curator Gabi Ngcobo’s classy, compact, and somewhat undefinable exhibition this year titled “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” the 11th Berlin Biennale promises yet again to share a wide-angle view of contemporary art from farther afield. This time, the curators all hail from South America.

The four-person curatorial team comprises Chilean curator María Berríos, Argentinian curator Renata Cervetto, Brazilian curator Lisette Lagnado, and Venezuelan-born curator Agustin Pérez Rubio. Little has been revealed about the general topics the four will be working on, or what exactly brings their curatorial visions into alignment beyond their common commitment to a multidisciplinary approach. The group has described themselves in the official statement as an “intergenerational” and “female-identified” team.

“Our team is predominantly female and we think it is OK to take over. As a team, we identify as female because we feel the rule of everything by overconfident-macho voices must end,” the curators tell artnet News. “This also in the light of the devastating win of [president-elect Jair] Bolsonaro in Brasil. Destructive macho power needs to be overthrown on a worldwide scale.“

Indeed, the selection comes at a time of major change, and in some cases political crisis, in the Southern Hemisphere.

In researcher, art critic, and curator Lagnado’s home country of Brazil, where she curated the 27th Bienal de São Paulo in 2006, the president-elect Jair Bolsonaro has been nicknamed “Tropical Trump” for his demeaning remarks against women and minority groups. (He has also threatened to dissolve the ministry of culture and may imperil rebuilding efforts of the National Museum, which was recently destroyed in a massive fire, according to reporting from The Art Newspaper.)

On the Pacific Coast in Chile, president Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has expressed solidarity with the incoming Brazilian president, saying he is “just what Brazil needs,” according to TelesurBerríos, who is from Chile, was a cofounder of the local editorial collective vaticanochico. Together with Lagnado, she curated “Drifts and Derivations. Experiences, journeys and morphologies,” an exhibition of work by experimental architectural collectives from Chile at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid in 2010.

In Argentina, meanwhile, where Cervetto recently served as the educational department coordinator at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), the country continues to contend with soaring inflation and a correlated currency in free fall. Farther north, Venezuelan curator Rubio’s home country is already deeply submerged in a serious economic crisis, which shows no signs of abating.

Rubio is also the curator for the Chilean Pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale (which will feature artist Voluspa Jarpa’s project “Altered Views,” an examination of gender, race, and power). The curator is known for an interest in feminist themes: while at MALBA, Rubio increased the proportion of female artists in the collection from 17 percent to 46 percent, according to Latin American news site The Bubble.

To what extent the complicated politics currently at play in the region will figure in the exhibition remains to be seen. It’s also not the first time a South American curator has taken the helm of the German exhibition. Colombian-Canadian curator Juan A. Gaitán led the eighth chapter in 2008, and one member from Ngcobo’s team this year, Thiago de Paula Souza, is a Brazilian-based curator and writer. It is however, notably, the first time that South America will have ever been featured so prominently and with such an international voice.

The selection “absolutely corresponds with the Berlin Biennale being a platform to promote experimental formats and positions independent of the art market and collection interests,” Gabriele Horn, the director of the Berlin Biennale, told artnet News in a statement.


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