On May 20, the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale, an international architecture exhibition held in Venice, kicked off. This year’s exhibition title is “The Laboratory of the Future,” with 64 national pavilions showing in Giardini, Arsenale, and Forte Marghera, and special exhibitions held throughout the city. The Biennale runs through November 26.
Ghanaian-Scottish architectural educator Lesley Lokko (b. 1964) curated, rebalancing the gender, age, and ethnicity of the participants and highlighting African architects. More than half of the 89 participants in the main exhibition hall are from Africa or the African diaspora, and many of their works address the impact of climate change on the continent and the history of colonialism. The gender ratio of the participants is 50:50, showing a strong female representation.
The average age of the participants is 43, much younger than in previous years, and participants were individuals and small teams, as opposed to the previous trend of large-scale groups of participants. These adjustments reflect the organizers’ intention to write the story of future architecture with agents who have been placed outside the mainstream discourse of architecture.
The awards ceremony took place with the official opening on May 20. The Golden Lion Award went to the Brazilian National Pavilion (designed by Gabriela de Matos and Paulo Tavares) and the DAAR team from Italy (Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal), while the Silver Lion Award for young and promising participants went to Nigerian-born American artist Olalekan Jeyifous (b. 1977).
On May 4, Istanbul Museum of Modern Art (Istanbul Modern) unveiled its new building. It’s been five years since the museum moved into temporary quarters and began construction in 2018. The new building spans 110,000 square feet and includesArt temporary and permanent exhibition halls, education programs, a film screening room, and a café.
The design is by Renzo Piano (b. 1937), winner of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. Reflecting its location in Karaköy, which has been the historical port for travelers between Europe and Asia, Piano incorporated shapes of ships into the building’s design and installed aluminum plates on the exterior walls that glow like fish scales in the light.
Commissions to mark the opening of the new building include Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Your unexpected journey (2021)’ and an artificial intelligence-based installation by Refik Anadol. The inaugural exhibition in the new building is a large-scale collection exhibition. 280 works by Turkish and international artists will be on view.
The new construction of Istanbul Modern is part of the ‘Galataport Istanbul’ project, which is a $1.8 billion regional development project to revitalize the historic and cultural sites in the Karaköy area, supporting the construction of new museums as well as restaurants, hotels, and cruise terminals.
Bildmuseet, a contemporary art museum in the northern Swedish city of Umeå, presents “Down North: Down North: Contemporary Art in the Arctic” from May 26 through next year January 14. The exhibition brings together works by artists from the world’s most northernmost regions. It features 30 artists from Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the northernmost United States, the Sápmi region of northern Scandinavia, and indigenous nations in the Arctic region.
Addressing social, economic, political, and ecological crises in their respective regions, the artists speak to today’s climate crisis and the history of colonialism. Others confront the illusion of the North as a remote wilderness and challenge the romanticized notion of the North as an untouched land and the homogenous perception of the North. Through works in a wide range of media, the exhibition seeks to trace the shared experiences within the region and reflect anew on the affinities and chasms within societies and among nations in the North Atlantic.
Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum presents “Apocalypse,” a solo exhibition by Afro-Curaçao artist Felix de Rooy (b. 1952), on view through September 3. As a visual artist, theater maker, film director, curator, collector, observer, and social critic, de Rooy has influenced generations of artists. Ahead of his time, he has addressed topics that remain relevant today: the legacy of colonialism, everyday racism, queer identity, and Afro-Caribbean existence. In recognition of his lifelong artistic achievements and social impact, he was named a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau by the Dutch royal family in 2000 and was presented with the Black Achievement Award in 2023.
With a transhistorical and cosmopolitan perspective, he blends images and stories from different times, cultures, religions, and regions to create magical and surreal works. He explores the concepts of ‘cross culture’ and ‘cross time,’ addressing the inner turmoil, mortality, and the desire for sexual and romantic fulfillment as universal attributes of humanity that transcend differences. The exhibition presents paintings, assemblages, digital collages, and wall installations spanning five decades of his practice.