By Staff Writer
Two Zimbabwean artists Portia Zvavahera and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami have been named among 213 artists to take part in this year’s edition of the Venice Biennale, the world’s biggest art exhibition.
The artists, drawn from 58 countries worldwide, will participate in the exhibition which is due to run from April 23 to November 27 in Italy. Of those 213 artists, 180 of them have never before shown at the Venice Biennale.
Zvavahera, an oil painter, is currently based in Harare. Between 2003 and 2005 she studied at the National Gallery BAT Workshop School (now the National Gallery School of Visual Art and Design) and in 2006 she obtained a Diploma in Visual Arts from Harare Polytechnic.
Zvavahera made her debut at the Biennale in 2013.
Hwami is also an oil painter on canvass. She lives and works in London and this is going to be her second appearance at the Venice Biennale, the first being in 2019. Last year she made a prestigious list of artists to collect, selected by the prestigious Christie’s.
Christie’s is a British auction house founded in 1766 by James Christie.
National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) executive director Raphael Chikukwa congratulated the two artists “for flying our Zimbabwean flag high” and that “we must be proud of ourselves as Zimbabwe to have our artists at this important exhibition”.
“It is in the NGZ’s interest to create platforms for local artists not only in here in Zimbabwe, but also at bigger platforms outside Zimbabwe. For them being selected for this big and important exhibition in the main exhibition of the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale is surely something to celebrate. I would also want to say to other artists, the sky is the limit,” Chikukwa told IndependentXtra on Wednesday.
“Since our maiden appearance at the Biennale in 2011, we have never looked back. This shows that there is great talent that needs continuous nurturing and appreciation by local corporates, collectors and government departments because before we know it, some of the works by these artists will become permanent collections across Europe and America. Actually, Zimbabwe over the past 10 years has become a silent global arts destination and it’s high time to claim our position. We cannot continue to look the other way when we have such talent coming out of this great country of ours.
“To the gallerists who represent these two artists, our congratulations to you too. Your eye on our artists means a lot to us and let’s celebrate together for we are all players in this global arts scene.”
He added that “good work speaks for itself and to the Venice Biennale curator, allow me to say, our Zimbabwean artists will not disappoint you”.
The Biennale is this year curated by Cecilia Alemani, director and chief curator of High Line Art in New York. Her show is titled “The Milk of Dreams”, its name a reference to a series of drawings that were later turned into a children’s book by surrealist artist Leonora Carrington.
Alemani told ARTnews that the show will focus on three distinct areas of inquiry: “the representation of bodies and their metamorphoses; the relationship between individuals and technologies; the connection between bodies and the Earth”. The show will include more than 1 000 works.
Alemani called her Biennale “a transhistoric exhibition, creating a dialogue between the present and past and creating a dialogue between stories of exclusion”. Included in those capsules will be loans from various collectors and institutions, including Remedios Varo’s Armónia (Autorettrato Surgente), 1956, which was bought by Eduardo F Costantini for a record-breaking US$6,19 million in 2020. Across the show, and especially in the “capsules”, there will be an emphasis on surrealism by women and gender non-conforming artists.
Like many major art events, however, the Venice Biennale has faced challenges associated with the pandemic — this year’s edition was originally slated to take place in 2021, but was postponed a full year. When that delay was announced in 2020, Alemani made it clear that she did not want to curate what she called “the coronavirus biennial”.