John Akomfrah, one of today’s most widely celebrated filmmakers, has been chosen to represent Great Britain at the next Venice Biennale, which will open in April 2024.
While few details are known yet about Akomfrah’s pavilion, his will be one of the most anticipated national exhibitions at the 2024 Venice Biennale.
This is partly because of his stature — he has proven influential for multiple generations of artists in the U.K. and beyond, and was knighted at the start of this year. Additionally, the British Pavilion took the Golden Lion in 2022, with Sonia Boyce winning the exhibition’s top award.
Akomfrah, who was born in Ghana and moved to England early in his childhood, first rose to fame as part of the storied Black Audio Film Collective, whose members utilized the moving image to meditate on the flow of ideas across the globe and postcolonial lines of thinking. Handsworth Songs, the group’s 1986 film about the riots that took place in Handsworth and London the year prior, is now considered a classic.
After Black Audio Film Collective disbanded in the late ’90s, Akomfrah began working solo. These days, he produces expansive installations that feature an array of imagery — some of it appropriated, some of it newly filmed by Akomfrah and his collaborators — related to climate change, racism, colonialism, cultural studies, and, most recently, the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd.
His work has appeared at the Venice Biennale two times, once in the main show of the 2015 edition and once in the Ghanaian Pavilion of the 2017 edition. (His work has also screened at the Venice Film Festival, a sister event to the art Biennale.)
“It is a huge privilege and an honour to be asked to represent the UK at the 60th Venice Biennale—it is without a doubt one of the most exciting opportunities that an artist can be presented with,” Akomfrah said in a statement. “I see this invitation as recognition of, and a platform for all those I have collaborated with over the decades, and who continue to make my work possible. I’m grateful to be given a moment to explore the complex history and significance of this institution and the nation it represents, as well as its architectural home in Venice—with all the stories it has told and will continue to.”
The panel that selected him said in a statement, “In his moving image works, Akomfrah poetically layers fictious and factual narratives that compellingly invite us to embrace the complex realities of migrant diasporas. Akomfrah is a truly global thinker. Imaginatively addressing some of our most pressing existential concerns, his work will captivate viewers at the Venice Biennale.”
With less than two years until its opening, the 2024 Venice Biennale has begun to take shape. Adriano Pedrosa was selected to curate the main exhibition, which is not related to the national pavilions. Meanwhile, certain national pavilions have begun announcing their artist picks, with Julien Creuzet representing France, Guerreiro do Divino Amor representing Switzerland, and more.