Cecilia Alemani’s Venice Biennale Appointment Is Great News for the Art World

Only the fifth woman to hold the position of artistic director, Alemani has a track record that's setting high hopes for the Venice Biennale's next edition.

Cecilia Alemani at the High Line 2019 Spring Benefit. Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious contemporary art exhibitions in the world, has found its next artistic director: Cecilia Alemani. Alemani has previously held positions as guest curator of the performance biennial Performa 11, was co-founder of the No Soul For Sale festival and curator of the 2017 Venice Biennale’s Italian Pavilion. She’s currently the chief curator for High Line Art, the public art program that commissions pieces to be displayed on Manhattan’s most popular elevated linear park, and she also served as the artistic director for the inaugural Art Basel Cities: Buenos Aires fair in 2018. In other words, Alemani is by all rational estimations completely qualified to take on the Venice Biennale, as evidenced by her experience and by the fact that she would only be the fifth woman ever to hold this job, as well as the first Italian woman. The timing couldn’t be better.

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On Twitter, some critics pointed out that because Alemani’s husband, Massimiliano Gioni, formerly had the job for the Venice Biennale’s 2013 edition, her appointment felt a little lacking in inspiration. But given the breadth of time between Gioni’s and Alemani’s appointments and the depth of the latter’s resume, however, this observation feels irrelevant when it comes to the determination of who deserves the job most in 2021. By all accounts, Alemani has deftly grasped the many intricacies of public arts programming on a grand scale, and an equally vocal contingent of online commentators didn’t waste time singing her praises and championing her proclivity for offering big opportunities to up-and-coming artists. 

Furthermore, there’s no doubt a dearth of women in artistic director positions, so an increase in their number can only be a good thing. “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,” Alemani said in a statement. “As the first Italian woman to hold this position, I understand and appreciate the responsibility and also the opportunity and I intend to give voice to artists to create unique projects that reflect their visions and our society.” The next Venice Biennale will unfold in 2021.

Cecilia Alemani’s Venice Biennale Appointment Is Great News for the Art World