The Venice Biennale Has Appointed Cecilia Alemani, the Artistic Force Behind New York’s High Line, as the Curator of Its 2021 Edition

Alemani previously curated the Italian pavilion at the 2017 edition of the biennale.

Cecilia Alemani at the 2019 High Line Art dinner. Photo by Benjamin Lozovsky, courtesy of BFA.

Curator Cecilia Alemani will serve as artistic director of the 59th edition of the prestigious Venice Biennale. Alemani, who will become the fifth woman ever to helm the international exhibition, is the director and chief curator of High Line Art, the public art program at New York City’s High Line, an elevated railroad turned popular park.

“It is a great honor to be able to take on this role in one of the most prestigious and recognized Italian institutions in the world,” said Alemani in a statement. “As the first Italian woman to hold this position, I understand and appreciate the responsibility and also the opportunity offered to me and I intend to give voice to artists to create unique projects that reflect their visions and our society.”

Alemani previously curated Italy’s national pavilion at the 2017 edition of the biennale with a critically acclaimed exhibition of site-specific work by Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Adelita Husni-Bey, and Roberto Cuoghi.

“I am sure that her new project will be equally courageous and innovative,” Paolo Baratta, chair of the biennale’s board of directors, told the Italian news outlet Ag Cult.

Work by Giorgio Andreotta Caló in the Italian Pavilion. Image: Andrew Goldstein.

Work by Giorgio Andreotta Caló in Cecilia Alemani’s Italian pavilion, 2017. Photo by Andrew Goldstein.

Alemani follows in the footsteps of her husband, Massimiliano Gioni, artistic director at the New Museum in New York, who curated the 55th biennale in 2013. The most recent edition, in 2019, was helmed by Ralph Rugoff, the American-born director of London’s Hayward Gallery, who offered a grim outlook on the planet’s future in “May You Live In Interesting Times.”

At the High Line, Alemani has organized exhibitions of artists including El Anatsui, John Baldessari, Rashid Johnson, Barbara Kruger, and Ed Ruscha. Particularly memorable installations include a timely presentation of Zoe Leonard’s I want a president (1992) ahead of the 2016 election, organized by associate curator Melanie Kress, and Tony Matelli’s creepy half-nude man Sleepwalker (2014).

Simone Leigh,Brick House at the Spur, the last section of the original structure of the High Line to be converted into public space in New York. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Simone Leigh, Brick House at the Spur, the last section of the original structure of the High Line to be converted into public space in New York. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

In 2019, as the High Line opened its final section, Alemani launched the highly anticipated High Line Plinth, a permanent space for monumental artwork, with a sculpture by the artist Simone Leigh.

Alemani also served as curator of Frieze Projects at the Frieze Art Fair in New York from 2012 to 2017, the artistic director for the Art Basel Cities program in Buenos Aires in 2018, and the guest curator of Performa 11 in New York in 2011. Working as an independent curator, she organized exhibitions at numerous international venues, notably the No Soul for Sale—A Festival of Independents art “convention” at the Tate Modern in 2010.

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