Venice Biennale Names a Brazilian Trailblazer as Its New Curator

The Venice Biennale selected the Brazilian museum director Adriano Pedrosa as the curator of its next edition, the organizers of the world’s longest-running contemporary art exhibition said in a statement on Thursday. Mr. Pedrosa, who leads the São Paulo Museum of Art, will organize the event’s 60th edition, which is scheduled to open in April 2024.

Mr. Pedrosa has won international acclaim for his leadership of the São Paulo Museum of Art, better known by its Portuguese acronym MASP, where he has been artistic director since 2014. Over the last decade, he was a co-organizer a sequence of large-scale, centuries-spanning thematic exhibitions — colloquially known as the “Histories” — that have remapped the history of Brazilian art and re-examined Latin American culture against influences and counter currents from Europe, Africa and the Indigenous Americas.

“Mestizo Histories” (2014-15), the first of these shows, intermingled Portuguese colonial portraiture, modernist abstraction and anthropological imagery to reveal the workings of race and hierarchy from the 16th century to the present. Next came “Histories of Sexuality” (2017-2018), a vigorous redeployment of nudes by Degas, Picasso and pre-Columbian and African sculptors, whose opening was picketed by conservative demonstrators outside MASP.

“Afro-Atlantic Histories” (2018), which opened days before the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, examined representations of the African diaspora in Brazil, the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. Writing from São Paulo, the New York Times critic Holland Cotter called that show “a hemispheric treasure chest, a redrafting of known narratives, and piece for piece one of the most enthralling shows I’ve seen in years.”

Mr. Pedrosa has experience with international contemporary art exhibitions; he was co-organizer of the 2006 edition of the Bienal de São Paulo (the world’s second-oldest, after Venice), as well as biennial exhibitions in Tijuana, Mexico and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He has also won praise for his restoration of the displays at MASP, a landmark building by the Italian-born Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, which floats above São Paulo’s central boulevard. In the 1960s, Bo Bardi designed a unique display format for its collection, perhaps the most important in Latin America: Its paintings hang on free-standing easels, all facing the same way, in a single, barrier-free gallery. The museum abandoned that unconventional format in 1990, but Mr. Pedrosa reinstated it as part of the museum’s efforts to disrupt traditional artistic hierarchies.

Mr. Pedrosa is the first Latin American to be named curator of the Venice Biennale, whose first edition took place in 1895, and which now comprises a large-scale group show (organized by the appointed curator) and dozens of independently organized national exhibitions. The most recent edition, which had been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, ran from April to November 2022 and drew more than 800,000 visitors, the most in its history.

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