Acaye Kerunen Joins Pace Gallery After Showing at Venice Biennale’s Award-Winning Ugandan Pavilion

Acaye Kerunen, whose work figures in the first-ever Ugandan Pavilion at the current Venice Biennale in Italy, has joined Pace, one of the most prominent galleries in the world.

Alongside Pace, she joined Vienna’s Galerie Kandlhofer and Blum & Poe, which has galleries in Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo. A presentation of her work will appear at Pace’s Frieze London booth next month, followed by a feature in Blum & Poe’s Art Basel Miami Beach booth in December, a Galerie Kandlhofer show in the spring, and a Blum & Poe solo show in L.A. next year.

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These exhibitions will be the first ones in Europe and the U.S. for Kerunen, who has only ever had solo shows in Uganda.

Kerunen will also continue to work with the management firm Stjarna.art, which took her on last year.

The Ugandan Pavilion, which also includes work by Collin Sekajugo, was a surprise hit at the Venice Biennale, snagging a special mention from the jury. Tim Blum, cofounder of Blum & Poe, said in an email to ARTnews that the experience of seeing Kerunen’s work in Venice was a “revelation.” Lisa Kandlhofer said that the pavilion had “made a lasting impression” on her.

In that pavilion, Kerunen is showing sculptural pieces that resemble abstracted versions of crafts, like bikapu fiber bags, that can be seen in Kampala, the city where she is based.

These works, along with others by Kerunen, were made by commissioning Ugandan artisans, many of whom were women. She has said that she works with women in order to deconstruct the universe around her and “start anew.” The banana fiber, raffia, and other materials she uses are also often sourced locally, from the wetlands around Lake Victoria and the African Great Lakes.

“Our team have been consistently awed by her use of idiosyncratic, organic materials and virtuosic stitching, weaving, embroidery, and knotting techniques,” Marc Glimcher, president and CEO of Pace, said in a statement. “Her sculptural installations unite contemporary aesthetics with Ugandan visual traditions, bringing the country’s political and social histories to the fore of her work.”

The move to join Pace is notable, given that the gallery, like its competitors, represents only a handful of African artists. Last week, Pace also took on the young Ghanaian painter Gideon Appah.

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