Exterior view of the "space in which to place me" (Jeffrey Gibson’s exhibition for the United States Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia), April 20 – November 24, 2024.
Photo: Timothy Schenck

6 Standout Pavilions from the 2024 Venice Biennale

From Jeffrey Gibson’s groundbreaking installation at the U.S. pavilion to Nigeria's presentation challenging colonial history in an off-site palazzo

Central Pavilion. Photo: Matteo De Mayda

On Tuesday morning, April 15, in brilliant sunshine, the 2024 edition of the Venice Biennale revved its engines for the earliest invitees; it will be open to the public from 20 April until 24 November. This year, the curator is Adriano Pedrosa, a 58-year-old Brazilian with an assured track record, whose determination is to reverse assumptions about what contemporary art should look like and where it comes from. Out of the 331 artists he has chosen to show, most come from the Global South and across 90 countries, and many are at the Biennale for the first time. While he admits that this Biennale is playing out against a backdrop of many difficult wars, and that issues of injustice, race and marginalization hang heavy in the world, Pedroso also wants to celebrate the importance of human movement and migration and the ability of people to adapt to and enhance the places in which they end up.

He sets out his mission statement in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini with an opening room of Latin American modernism—a mighty sugar rush of dazzling color and geometric abstraction. Artists including the Mexican Eduardo Terrazas and Iranian Mohammad Ehsaei underline the role that non-Western artists played in the development of the modernist movement.

From here, Pedroso weaves stories of indigenous, queer and non-western art into a complex sequence with some outstanding moments, and others that fall with a duller thud. Pablo Delano’s examination of Puerto Rico’s colonial history through a huge installation of found photography is an extraordinary and deeply considered piece of work. Romany Eveleigh’s quietly feverish canvasses of tiny repeated squares are compelling—and among  the only British work here. The stealthily acquired shots of Colombian Miguel Ángel Rojas  speak of a shadowy world of underground gay life. But this is to just scratch the surface.

Outside, in the Giardini, Pedroso invited Sol Calero, who is Venezuelan but lives in Berlin, to make a new work. She has responded with her Pabellon Criollo—half Japanese tea house (she spent time in the country recently) and half Caribbean town architecture—that is created entirely from leftover materials from previous biennales and painted the luscious pinks, blues, corals and purples of the of the latter. “The vibrancy is not incidental,” she says. “Last year, I went back to Venezuela for the first time in eight years and found that people have turned around the worst situation. They still find time to celebrate. It filled me with strength.”

Below, some of the highlights of the 2024 Biennale.

Exterior view of the "space in which to place me" (Jeffrey Gibson’s exhibition for the United States Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia), April 20 – November 24, 2024. Photo: Timothy Schenck


Jeffrey Gibson, the American artist of Cherokee descent, pursues his love of color, craft, and indigenous aesthetics and materials in the United States pavilion, starting on the outside, where he has treated the building to a kaleidoscopic coating of pattern and form. Inside his huge beaded heads and figures—witnesses and guardians of both tragic histories and deep traditions—are woven around with texts from Nina Simone lyrics to Dakota proverbs and Martin Luther King’s admonition that “We are made by history”. On the opening day, fellow artist Mark Bradford and Gibson leapt spontaneously onto the plinth outside the pavilion, which will be used for performances throughout the exhibition. “Today Jeffrey is Diana Ross,” exclaimed Bradford. “I am just a Supreme!”

Art  +  Culture

Jeffrey Gibson Opens the Door to His Hudson Valley Studio Ahead of His Venice Biennale Installation

Yuko Mohri, Moré Moré (Leaky): Variations, (2022). Photo: Courtesy of the artist, Project Fulfill Art Space, mother’s tankstation, Yutaka Kikutake Gallery, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery


The Japanese artist Yuko Mohri combed Venice for household products—pans, sieves, a mauve child’s Wellington boot, translucent corrugated plastic, a yellow rubber glove, green glass bottles—and has woven them together with transparent piping to talk about Japan’s water problem. “Water is everywhere in Japan, but it changes form,” she says. “It can be life-giving, or like as a tsunami, a violent destruction.” Like a kinetic sculpture by Jean Tinguely infused with the finesse of Japanese aesthetics, Mori’s sculptures drip and clatter. A second body of work sees rotting fruit, arranged on found Venetian furniture, inserted with needles which go on to create a soundscape through connection to a concealed computer and fill the air with the strange scent of decomposition.

Installation view of "Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket", 2024, at Canada Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Photo: Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and supported by the Canada Council for the Art


Kapwani Kiwanga amassed around seven million vintage glass seed-beads made in Venice until the 1970s and known as contarie. Now they form luminous curtains of graduated color both in and outside the Canadian pavilion. The presentation is called “Trinket,” to suggest the aloof attitude of the western colonizers to the treasures they found in their travels outside of Europe, with beads representing currency and trade. Kapwani has created sculptures using materials which either through their mining or planting have created devastation in many parts of the colonized world—gold (leaf), palm oil, prized rare woods. “My work is 70% research, 30% making,” says Kapwani. “I see the whole installation as a place of exchange between all these materials and the places they come from.”

Installation view of "Everything Precious is Fragile" at the Pavilion of Benin in Biennale Arte 2024. Photo: Jacopo La Forgia


The West African country, the Republic of Benin, is making its first appearance in Venice, part of a broader—and ambitious— national plan to make the country into West Africa’s primary cultural hub. The government has set aside around $2 billion dollars for the project that will include a series of new museum buildings in its port city of Cotonou, and bringing artists to Venice. “It’s a long-term project,” says the minister of culture and tourism, Babalola Jean-Michel Abimbola. Four artists are showing in the Benin pavilion in the Arsenale, creating narratives around voodoo, feminism, the spiritual practice of gélédé and the slave trade much of which left from its shores. The standout work is by Chloe Quenum, who is based in Paris, and has worked with glass. A series of traditional musical instruments are recreated in fine, transparent glass and suspended in the air, like ghosts of a thinly remembered past.

Installation view of "The Neighbors" at the Bulgarian Pavillion. Photo: Courtesy of the artists


In the communist era 1945-1989, people disappeared in Bulgaria every day, arrested for any suspected dissidence or queerness and taken to horrendous work camps. “In my camp, six or seven people died every day,” recalls a voice. In a building near the Accademia Bridge, curator Vasil Vladimirov has created a suite of domestic interiors—like a Bulgarian home—where real memories are relayed through speakers of the horrors endured. Some who talk are survivors, others lost loved ones. Surrounded by brown furniture, straw mattresses and the sparse china cabinets of normal Bulgarian lives, the experience for visitors is sad and moving, but for many the show will also provide access to a part of history otherwise unknown. The silence has been broken.

Installation view of "Nigeria Imaginary" at the Nigeria Pavilion at the 60th International Art Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia. Photo: Museum of West African Art (MOWAA)


In another off-site building, in a palazzo in Dorsoduro, the Nigerian pavilion offers up the work of eight artists who in combination unravel a long history that entangles the colonial, the brutal and the emergence of a country where citizens are trying to establish a better future. In this exhibition of noticeably different parts, the standouts are Yinka Shonibare, whose ceramic works recall a bloodied past in Benin, as well as one where a spirituality has existed as an alternative driving force. Tunji Adeniyi-Jones’s vibrant ceiling work weaves together the inspiration of modernist Nigerian painter with Venetian floral imagery and mythologies from both Nigeria and Italy. Toyin Ojih Odutola, a Nigerian based in New York, works in pastels on linen to make carefully studied portraits against lavish backgrounds. Her Gauguinesque groupings serve as a storytelling device: the social inequality and queer lives of her subjects.

Cover: Exterior view of the "space in which to place me" (Jeffrey Gibson’s exhibition for the United States Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia), April 20 – November 24, 2024.
Photo: Timothy Schenck


Sign up to receive the best in art, design, and culture from Galerie

Thank You
Your first newsletter will arrive shortly.