In This Review

May You Live in Interesting Times
May You Live in Interesting Times
By Curated by Ralph Rugoff and Organized by La Biennale di Venezia
The 58th International Art Exhibit, Biennale Arte 2019, Biennale Foundation, 2019, pp

At the 58th edition of the contemporary art world’s most prominent international event, Latin American and Caribbean countries hosted 13 of the 87 national pavilions. Ministries of culture or foreign affairs, often in collaboration with national experts, selected local artists for the high honor of showcasing their creative works in Venice. Among the Latin American offerings, Swinguerra, a Brazilian video installation, dazzled with exuberant Afro-Brazilian dancers proudly asserting their complex identities, including some who identified as nonbinary. Other Latin American artists presented much darker visions. In the Argentine pavilion, Mariana Telleria erected a parade of large, ominous creatures gathered in what her curator described as a “dystopian cultural landscape.” In the Peruvian pavilion, Christian Bendayán critically explored the way Europeans eroticized the Amazonian jungle and its populations. In the Chilean pavilion, Voluspa Jarpa reduced Latin American history to a series of degrading impositions by “hegemonic” powers. In sharp contrast to these offerings from South America, the art in the pavilions of China and the United States—today’s preeminent powers—while not ignoring the contradictions of the human condition, reveled in those countries’ respective national achievements.