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Bluecoat and Venice Biennale 2019

As the artists for the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia / Venice Biennale 2019 are announced today Friday 8th March at the Italian Cultural Institute, London we are delighted to see past exhibiting artists Larissa Sansour and John Akomfrah are exhibiting in national pavilions, and to be a project partner on the collateral presentation by Wales in Venice of artist Sean Edwards.

We are delighted to see that Larissa Sansour - who exhibited at Bluecoat in 2013 as part of a group show in partnership with the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and Moussem, and then as a solo artist for 2017 as part of our tercentennial celebrations - is representing Denmark with a new film. 

Liverpool audiences connected with her science fiction infused narratives and thoughtful interrogation of nation states.



Another previous Bluecoat exhibitor John Akomfrah, who was curated by Bluecoat for the 2012 Liverpool Biennial, features in the first ever Ghana Pavilion alongside Felicia Abban, El Anatsui, Ibrahim Mahama, Selasi Awusi Sosu, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Akomfrah's moving and layered homage to cultural theorist Stuart Hall, title The Unfinished Conversation, was the highlight of Bluecoat's 2012 programme and we can't wait to see how all of these artists resonate together. 

Bluecoat is also proud to be an official project partner of Wales in Venice which includes bringing the work to Liverpool in 2020.

Cardiff based artist Sean Edwards, who featured in a group show at Bluecoat 2015 and as a solo performance lecture in 2017, was selected last year to represent Wales in Venice 2019. He presents a solo exhibition curated by guest curator Marie-Anne McQuay (Bluecoat's Head of Programme on sabbatical with Wales in Venice), lead organisation TyPawb, Wrexham commissioned by Arts Council of Wales for the Collateral Event of the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. We are also delighted to partner with Ty Pawb on a long term relationship of exchange and learning between England's oldest arts centre and Wales' newest.  For the Liverpool presentation of Edwards’ work we will also explore the rich cultural and artistic historic, and contemporary connections, between Wales and Liverpool. 

Sean Edwards’ exhibition for the 2019 Venice Biennale, a poetic inquiry into place, politics and class, intertwined with personal histories, will be held at Santa Maria Ausiliatrice, Castello from 11 May to 24 November 2019.  The artist will use the ornate surroundings of the Church and former convent to present a series of interrelated works - sculptures, film, prints and quilts - which take as their starting point the artist’s experience of growing up on a council estate in Cardiff in the 1980s. In this new body of work, Edwards is interested in capturing and translating what he calls a condition of ‘not expecting much’ into a shared visual language; one that evokes a way of living that is familiar to a great number of people; a way of making do and getting by.

The exhibition also contains a time-based sound work; Refrain is a new radio commission produced in partnership with National Theatre Wales. A live broadcast performed by the artist’s mother will be broadcast to Venice from her council home in Cardiff. The script draws on personal experience and found materials. Her voice, elderly, accented by her Northern Irish background and not used to making a public address, will at times hesitate and repeat. With her kind permission and collaboration, this voice becomes part of the work, shifting the atmosphere of the exhibition with its presence and absence.

During the Venice Biennale, in November 2019, National Theatre Wales will present a version of Refrain at T? Pawb, Wrexham and other venues. The full exhibition will then tour back to the UK, appearing at T? Pawb, Wrexham in the spring of 2020 before moving on to Bluecoat, Liverpool in winter 2020. This activity is kindly supported by Art Fund. 


Image credit -

And they covered the sky until it was black, 2017

John Akomfrah, The Unfinished Conversation, 2012. Photograph by Jerry Hardman-Jones

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