59th Venice Biennale

Sonia Boyce to Represent the UK at the Venice Biennale

She will be the first black woman to represent the country at the art world’s most prestigious exhibition.

Sonia Boyce by Paul Cochrane. Courtesy of UAL

Sonia Boyce by Paul Cochrane. Courtesy of UAL

The British Council announced today that Sonia Boyce OBE RA has been announced to represent Great Britain at the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2021. The exhibition will run from May – November 2021 and will feature a major solo exhibition of new work from the artist.

Sonia Boyce, (born 1962),  is known for her highly innovative and experimental approach to art-making, using performance and audio-visual elements in her work.  The artist and academic was a key figure in the Black-British art scene in 1980s Britain. Since the 1990s, her practice has become increasingly improvisational and collaborative, inviting a broad cross-section of participants to come together and speak, sing or move in relation to the past and the present. The British Afro-Caribbean artist, living and working in London, is currently a Professor of Black Art and Design at University of the Arts London.

On accepting the British Council commission, Sonia Boyce commented: “You could have knocked me down with a feather when I got the call to tell me I had been chosen to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale 2021 – it was like a bolt out of the blue. Obviously, I’m extremely honored, excited – and nervous. I’m eager to start this creative journey, exploring the experience with others who agree to work with me along the way.”

Boyce’s work raises important questions about the nature of creativity, questioning who makes art, how ideas are formed, and the nature of authorship,” Emma Dexter, the British Council’s director of visual arts, commissioner, and chair of the British pavilion selection committee, says in a statement. “At such a pivotal moment in the UK’s history, the committee has chosen an artist whose work embodies inclusiveness, generosity, experimentation and the importance of working together.”

The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK’s artists, architects, designers and curators. These exhibitions, and the British Council’s Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a major platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture.

Later this year, the British Council will appoint an Associate Curator to work alongside Sonia Boyce and the British Council team to develop the exhibition.







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