CLEVELAND, Ohio — Few institutional accolades in the art world are more significant than being chosen by the U.S. Department of State to host an exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion in the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy.
The spacesa small non-profit art gallery on the West Side of Cleveland, has just joined this exclusive club.
On Sunday, the gallery announced that it had been selected to curate the U.S. exhibit at the 2023 Architecture Biennale in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The Architecture Biennale has alternated every two years since 1980 with the Art Biennale, established in Venice in 1895. The international exhibitions, featuring exhibits from no less than 75 countries, are considered among the most visible, important and the most popular in the world.
Spaces will act as “curator” of the US exhibition at the Architecture Biennale, meaning in this case that it will commission new works by five American artists and designers for an exhibition in Venice from May 20 to November 26. .
“This is a huge deal for Spaces,” Key Jo Lee, chairman of the gallery’s board, said in an interview with cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. “This appointment is truly historic. The Venice Biennale is the quintessential art fair, with presentations on the world stage. People come from all over the world to watch the installations.
Tizziana Baldenebro, executive director of Spaces since 2020, said for her that winning the national selection process to become the U.S. curator at the Biennale brought “tears of joy, excitement, nervousness and disbelief. “.
Spaces learned in July that he had been chosen to curate the Biennale by the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions, a group of curators and museum directors serving the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA submits its recommendation to the State Department.
The gallery waited to release the news until the State Department completed an internal confirmation process, Baldenebro said.
“We are incredibly thrilled with the opportunity, exposure and honor this event brings us,” she said. “We represent the whole country and we do not take this responsibility lightly. This catapults us onto an international platform.”
The American Pavilion, built in 1930 and owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and operated by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, is a neoclassical exhibition hall in the Giardini, a cultural fair with buildings representing 29 nationalities. The grounds overlook the Venetian Lagoon at the eastern end of the island city, east of the Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco.
Spaces’ chosen theme, “Everlasting Plastics,” will involve sculptures and installations that “invite visitors to reframe the overabundance of plastic litter in our waterways, landfills, and streets as a rich resource,” according to a statement from Spaces. gallery press. .
Baldenebro said the theme grew out of concepts she had been brainstorming since 2019, when she worked as a Ford Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD).
The five artist-designers chosen by Spaces to participate in the exhibition:
• Cleveland Sculptor Lauren Yeager.
• Xavi Aguireassistant professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
• Ang Liarchitect and assistant professor at Northeastern University in Boston.
• Norman theguea Chicago-based social practice artist, designer, furniture maker, and educator.
Baldenebro will co-lead the project with Lauren Levantcurator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.
Baldenebro said the five artists/designers engaged in the Architecture Biennale “think very seriously about waste systems, waste generation and their impact on the communities” of the industrial Midwest, where all have lived and worked.
Yeager’s work focuses on using discarded plastic objects to create totemic hybrid structures and sculptures.
Anton specializes in turning shredded plastic waste into sculptures and usable goods.
Li’s practice explores the use and beyond of plastics used in construction. Teague transforms discarded materials into furniture.
“To be able to bring together these brilliant creators is very exciting,” said Leving. “For me, it’s about offering these artists an international platform where their work will be recognized.
The show will be accompanied by talks, classes and workshops that will draw parallels between Ohio’s biggest industries and the plastic waste piling up on the shores of the Venice Lagoon, Spaces said in its statement. The aim is to connect “the communities most affected by plastic production, pollution and environmental mismanagement”.
Being chosen to organize the project is a big step for a small non-profit gallery in the industrial region of the Great Lakes.
Founded in 1978 as an artist-run space devoted to experimentation and non-commercial approaches to contemporary art, The spaces operates on a budget of $750,000 per year with a full-time staff of five, one part-time and one intern.
Today, Spaces has a more diverse board of directors with professionals from a variety of fields, but it still considers itself largely artist-focused.
In 2021, the Biennale attracted nearly 300,000 visitors, more than 42 times the annual attendance of 7,000 at Les Spaces.
But Spaces has garnered national and international attention for projects such as “A Color Removed,” an exhibition and community engagement curated by Chicago artist Michael Rakowitz that served as the cornerstone of the 2018 Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.
In search of big bucks
As curator of the Biennale, Spaces is to raise $1 million to help pay for artist fees, travel, materials, publications, educational projects and other expenses. This will be in addition to a $375,000 grant already awarded to Spaces for the Biennale by the State Department.
Spaces is no stranger to raising big bucks. In 2019, he announced the close of a $2.2 million campaign to renovate his new home in a 9,300 square foot space on the ground floor of the Van Rooy Building at 2900 Detroit Ave. in the Hingetown neighborhood of Cleveland.
To help with the project, Spaces will hire an assistant curator, and possibly another employee, on a temporary basis, Baldenebro said.
The Spaces director said she sees the gallery’s selection by the State Department as an affirmation of its importance despite its small size and of “the value of the voice of Heartland” on the world art scene and design.
Baldenebro pointed out that Spaces would be the fourth institution in the Midwest in recent years to hold an American exhibition at the Biennale, along with the University of Michigan (2016), the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2018). , and the University of Illinois (2021).
But she pointed out that Spaces is by far the smallest institution in the region to hold a biennial exhibition.
Spaces may also be Ohio’s premier organizer. The Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative at Kent State University participated as an exhibitor in 2013, and conceptual artist Ann Hamilton, a professor at Ohio State University, presented a solo exhibition at the Biennale of Fine Arts in 2009 .
Jane Farverthe director of Spaces from 1981 to 1985, died in Venice in April 2015 while performing work related to an exhibition of works by artist Joan Jonas on display at the American pavilion, according to Artforum magazine.
Both Baldenebro and Leving have had previous experiences with the Biennale. Leving was exhibition director at the nonprofit Wrightwood 659 gallery in Chicago when the 2018 Architecture Biennale’s U.S. exhibition, “Dimensions of Citizenship,” traveled to the gallery after it closed in Venice.
And Baldenebro, then studying architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was involved in a student project that was part of this exhibit.
“I first came to the American Pavilion as a student,” Baldenebro said. “And now, five years later, I return as commissioner.”
She said she hopes her success “highlights the opportunities for young people to engage, learn and excite people about design and the creative and artistic possibilities available. It’s really important to me.