Cecilia Alemani—the director and chief curator of High Line Art, the public art program of New York’s elevated High Line park—has been named artistic director of the Fifty-Ninth Venice Biennale, taking place between May and November in 2021. The biennial’s board of directors, chaired by Paolo Baratta, agreed upon the appointment at a meeting held early this morning. She is the fifth woman to curate the exhibition in its more than 120-year history.
“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 offered to me and I intend to give voice to artists to create unique projects that reflect their visions and our society.”
Since 2011, when Alemani joined the Friends of the High Line, the nonprofit which programs and maintains the park, she commissioned and curated projects by El Anatsui, John Baldessari, Carol Bove, Gilbert & George, Sheila Hicks, Rashid Johnson, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Faith Ringgold, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Nari Ward, among others. She also launched the High Line Plinth, the park’s new contemporary art program, which was inaugurated with Simone Leigh’s Brick House in June 2019.
Previously, Alemani curated the Italian pavilion at the Fifty-Seventh Venice Biennale in 2017, and has served as curator of Frieze Projects for the Frieze Art Fair in New York from 2012 to 2017, as guest curator for the performance art biennial Performa 11 in 2011, and as curatorial director of New York’s X Initiative, a nonprofit art consortium that organized a yearlong program of exhibitions, screenings, panels, and other events at 548 West Twenty-Second Street, which took place from 2009 to 2010.
Alemani is also the cofounder of No Soul For Sale, a festival of independent spaces, nonprofit organizations, and artist collectives that took place at X Initiative in June 2009 and at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in May 2010. Her other curatorial projects include “Hopscotch” (2018), in collaboration with the city of Buenos Aires and Art Basel Cities; “The Comfort of Strangers” (2010) at MoMA/PS1, New York; “boundLES” (2008), which took place at several venues in the Lower East Side, New York; and “Things Fall Apart All Over Again” (2005) at Artists Space, New York.