Kapwani Kiwanga transforms the Canada Pavilion for La Biennale di Venezia

The exhibition features a sculptural installation and provides an immersive environment to guests.

Installation view of the exhibition Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket, 2024, Canada Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts © Kapwani Kiwanga / Adagp Paris / CARCC Ottawa 2024 Photo: Valentina Mori

An exhibition called Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket, was unveiled last week by the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), commissioner of Canada’s participation in the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia.

Kapwani Kiwanga, a Canadian and French artist based in Paris, has transformed the Canada Pavilion through a sculptural installation which invites visitors into an immersive environment through an intervention on the building’s interior and exterior. 

The building, viewed from its facade, becomes a large-scale tableau and the three-dimensional space collapses into a two-dimensional plane where distinctions between inside and outside “dissolve through transparency.” As one moves through the coil-like architecture, it unfolds and multiplies the visitors’ perspectives.

Kapwani Kiwanga Transfer II (Metal, breath, beads), 2024 bronze, blown glass, glass beads 160 × 120 × 32 cm Installation view, Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket, 2024, Canada Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts © Kapwani Kiwanga / Adagp Paris / CARCC Ottawa 2024 Photo: Valentina Mori

The main material used in the installation consists of conterie, also known as seed beads. Conterie were dispersed from Murano in the Venetian archipelago and incorporated into several material cultures throughout the world. These tiny glass units, used historically as currency and items of exchange, are used by Kiwanga to showcase how they shape today’s world.

Kapwani Kiwanga Transfer II (Metal, breath, beads) and Transfer IV (Metal, wood, breath, beads), 2024 bronze, blown glass, glass beads; bronze, palladium leaf, wood, blown glass, glass beads 160 × 120 × 32 cm; 164 × 100 × 70 cm Installation view, Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket, 2024, Canada Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts © Kapwani Kiwanga / Adagp Paris / CARCC Ottawa 2024 Photo: Valentina Mori

Kiwanga’s multidisciplinary works are experiential archives that allow audiences to experience and imagine alternative ways of relating and being. This installation addresses the “often-destructive history of commerce, yet the work pushes further and asks one to consider how the trade of these beads for varied materials shaped the current world.”

Kapwani Kiwanga Transfer III (Metal, wood, beads), 2024 wood, Pernambuco pigment, copper, glass beads 160 × 100 × 66 cm Installation view, Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket, 2024, Canada Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts © Kapwani Kiwanga / Adagp Paris / CARCC Ottawa 2024 Photo: Valentina Mori

Other materials are integrated in nearly raw states within the exhibition space, which Kiwanga chose specifically after researching transoceanic trade involving conterie. The meeting of these materials along with the beads aims to create a place of exchange and encourages reflection on questions of value, aesthetics, and the complexity of global economic relations.

Installation view of the exhibition Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket, 2024, Canada Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts © Kapwani Kiwanga / Adagp Paris / CARCC Ottawa 2024 Photo: Valentina Mori

Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket is curated by Gaëtane Verna, Executive Director, Wexner Center for the Arts.

The exhibition is commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and presented in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Gallery of Canada Foundation. The Canadian representation at the Biennale Arte 2024 is made possible through the Canadian Artists in Venice Endowment at the National Gallery of Canada Foundation and with the generous financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Hatch, Power Corporation of Canada, Wexner Center for the Arts and numerous private contributions.

Kapwani Kiwanga Impiraresse (Blue), 2024 cobalt glass beads, nylon-coated metal wire, metal components dimensions variable Installation view, Kapwani Kiwanga: Trinket, 2024, Canada Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts © Kapwani Kiwanga / Adagp Paris / CARCC Ottawa 2024 Photo: Valentina Mori

For more information on the exhibition, click here.