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Ralph Rugoff Introduced as La Biennale 2019 Curator

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On July 16th in Venice, the 20th anniversary of the appointment of the first curator of the new Biennale, President Paolo Baratta presented Ralph Rugoff as the curator of Biennale Arte 2019.

Paolo opened with talking about the history and tradition of Biennale and how the appointment of Ralph Rugoff as Curator continues to nurture the ideas La Biennale has represented for two decades.

May You Live in Interesting Times is less of a theme for the 58th International Art Exhibition and more of an expression of the times we are living in and art’s role in it. Ralph Rugoff explained that this idea came from his thought that Biennale should reveal something about the times we live in and that things today are ever quickly changing as we are living in a constant state of polarized discourse. This reminded him of an ancient Chinese curse he’d heard of – a now tribute to the theme of the Biennale.

In the 30’s, the British Prime Minister gave a speech in which he proclaimed that this curse – may you live in interesting times- had fallen on them. They were living in a time where crisis and chaos never settled. Recognizing the parallel to our world today, Ralph Rugoff expressed that there is no dialogue between opposing political sides and today you can choose the news you want to hear without ever seeing the other point of view if you wish.

It is with this that he shares art’s role in living in interesting times. Ralph Rugoff believes that art has a great role to play in helping us see other perspectives. Though science says it’s impossible for humans to hold two thoughts in our mind simultaneously, art asks us to do just that. Artists are tasked with the job of presenting contradictory perspectives. They have a duty to open the conversation.

One part of La Arsenale, where the exhibition takes place, called the Corderie was once where the ropes used for the ships were made. Using the history of La Arsenale as a metaphor, Ralph Rugoff emphasized art’s role. He said that art is like a cord to tie things together whether it be people, ideas, etc.  Art makes connections between things we wouldn’t connect. Today especially, we can’t avoid the fact that everything is connected and art allows us to experience the complexities of this vast connectedness.

The 58th International Art Exhibition will display a range of ideas. The intention is for spectators to experience a personal journey and come out with new and different ideas than they had going in. Ralph Rugoff shared that it’s not so much about the objects themselves but how you see the world when you leave.

As Curator, he is committed to doing research and traveling and meeting artist to uncover where the most interesting ideas are coming from. He divulged that unlike other curators who are tasked with such a large exhibition that have a committee to help curate, Ralph Rugoff wants the artists to have a hand in the curation of La Biennale 2019. He says he trusts artists the most with this as any good curator is only as good as their network of artists. He wants their recommendations of whose work they’d like to be displayed with and like to see in such an exhibition.

La Biennale 2019 is aimed to center around anti polarization and against simplified thinking. It is expected to help us deal with times we live in and open a dialogue. May You Live in Interesting Times will take us to places we’ve never been and give us all a view from new and different perspectives and even confront the connectedness between things we’ve avoided to address. It is sure to be an amazing and eye opening exhibition.

Photos by Andrea Avezzu. Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia