The Republic of Benin will present a national pavilion for the very first time at the Venice Biennale next year.
Azu Nwagbogu, a curator and founder of the Nigeria-based non-profit African Artists’ Foundation (AAF), will organise the West African country’s inaugural pavilion. A joint selection committee that included Benin’s president Patrice Talon, the nation’s tourism minister Jean Michel Abimbola, and museum administrators from the National Gallery of Benin recruited him.
Born in Lagos, Nwagbogu is known for his critical advocacy of African art, particularly photography, and his work to reimagine museums to better serve their localities. After founding AAF in 2007, a non-profit that supports contemporary artists and arts programming in Africa, he helped launch the LagosPhoto photography festival in 2010. In 2018 and 2019, he served as director of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, where he co-organized exhibitions including a major show on Zimbabwean contemporary painters. He was appointed to lead the organisation of Benin’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale by a joint selection committee made up of members of the National Gallery of Benin as well as the minister of tourism, culture and arts, and headed by the country’s president, Patrice Talon.
“We are delighted to have Azu Nwagbogu as the curator of the Bénin National Pavilion,” Talon said in a statement. “His unique background, vision and expertise in the field of art curation makes him the perfect candidate to showcase Bénin’s cultural heritage and contemporary art to the world.”
Benin’s first pavilion will be commissioned by José Pliya, a playwright who serves as the general director of La Galerie Nationale du Bénin. The curatorial team will also include the gallery’s curator Yassine Lassissi, who helped organise the contemporary section of Benin Art from Yesterday, and the architect Franck Houndégla.