NarrativeThey left Italy in the early 2000s, and then a contemporary art medium ran out, to try their luck in the United States. Successful bet. These expatriates now run the most prestigious museums in New York. Even their native country calls them, like Cecilia Alemani, at the head of the 59th Venice Biennale, which opens its doors to the public on April 23.
“Look, a real closet! », launches Cecilia Alemani, with a big smile, pointing with a hand to her small office, installed in her apartment in the East Village, in New York. Yet it is in this cubicle that the 45-year-old curator envisioned the 2022 edition of the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art, of which she is, this year, artistic director. The event, which opens its doors to the general public this Saturday, April 23, is the largest event in the art world, attended by gallery owners, directors of institutions, critics and collectors. Everyone goes to the lagoon to take the pulse of the environment.
Cecilia Alemani, curator of the Italian pavilion in 2017, knows that they are waiting for her at the turn. The Milanese, who is also responsible for the artistic commissions for the High Line, the famous planted promenade in western Manhattan, was commissioned to prepare a major exhibition on the two main sites of the Biennale: the brick Arsenal building and the foliage of the Giardini (public gardens). The event imagined by Cecilia Alemani, who designed it largely behind her computer, by Zoom, has a size peculiarity: 80% of the 213 artists presented are women.
“It was not planned”, assures the curator, who is also the first Italian, and one of the few women, who is entrusted with the reins of the prestigious event. “The issue of parity is a hot topic in America, and sweeping changes are taking place in museums, she explains, but, in Italy, we are still a long way from that! »
Cecilia Alemani knows both countries well, Italy, where she grew up and whose critical spirit she likes, and the United States, where she settled in the early 2000s. Like many of her compatriots. Italians are very numerous in the world of American art. It is not about people from the Italian-American community, settled there for decades, but about many personalities who left their native country after their studies.
Like Cecilia Alemani’s own husband, Massimiliano Gioni, artistic director of the prestigious New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, was in charge of the Venice Biennale in 2013 and is undoubtedly the curator of his generation who organized more biennials in the world. .
Or his friend, curator and critic Francesco Bonami, a Florentine naturalized American, as well as the artist Maurizio Cattelan, a bad boy from Padua who became a world star less than ten years after immigrating to the United States in the early 1990s. Not to mention so many other personalities – gallery directors, curators, project managers… – who arrived in the early 2000s, carrying a “Italian touch” that never fails to succeed.
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