Cathy Wilkes receives commission for 2019’s British Pavilion

Cathy Wilkes receives commission for 2019’s British Pavilion
Cathy Wilkes Untitled, 2012 Mixed media Dimensions variable Installation view of Cathy Wilkes, on view at MoMA PS1 from October 22, 2017 through March 11, 2018. Image courtesy MoMA PS1. Photo by Pablo Enriquez. Gift of the Speyer Family Foundation and Mrs. Saidie A. May (by exchange) Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow.
Leading lights  -   Artists

In just a few weeks, the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale International Art exhibition will be in full swing highlighting artists from over 80 countries around the world. This year, Cathy Wilkes has received the commission to create a solo exhibition for the British Pavilion, which will run from May 11th until November 24th. The British Council has also commissioned Dr. Zoe Whitley, senior curator of the Hayward Gallery in London, to curate the pavilion. This is the first year that the British Council has selected an independent curator and the third biennale in a row that a woman artist has represented the British Pavilion with a solo show (in 2015 Sarah Lucas represented Britain and was followed by Phyllida Barlow in 2017).

Cathy Wilkes, ‘Untitled’, 2016, Oil on canvas, 76 x 122 x 2.5 cm, 30 x 48 x 1 in. Photo: Keith Hunter
Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow.


For the exhibition, Wilkes has created all new works that flow from room to room featuring sculptural installations, paintings, arranged objects and prints. Accumulating ‘treasures and ingredients,’ Wilkes brings objects together to create ‘inchoate visions of interiors and places of loss, and meditates on the nature of love and the coexistence of life and death.’ Each new work remains without a title as the exhibition ‘shows the disappearance and dematerialisation of life and the absence and anonymity of the author,’ according to the press release.

Wilkes was born in Dundonald Belfast and currently lives and works in Glasgow. Through her 25-year career, Wilkes has created a body of works, which have made a name for herself and she’s considered one of the UK’s most influential contemporary artists. In 2008, Wilkes was nominated for the Turner Prize and in 2016, she was awarded with the inaugural Maria Lassnig Prize, which led to her largest solo exhibition to date at MoMA PS1. This isn’t Wilkes’ first time to show at the Venice Biennale, either. In 2005, she was part of ‘Selective Memory,’ an exhibition representing Scotland in the 51st biennale and in 2013, she was featured in ‘The Encyclopedic Palace’ at the 55th Venice Biennale. However, her upcoming return the Venice will be her premier solo show at the international exhibition and she will join the ranks of 22 other artists who have represented the British Pavilion with a solo show.

Dr. Zoe Whitley, curator of the 2019 British Pavilion. Photo: James Gifford Mead.


Whitley was the former curator of international art at the Tate Modern and co-curated the 2017 ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.’ Before her position at the Tate, she was a curator at the V&A and has worked in the US and South Africa.

‘We are excited to present a completely new body of work by Cathy Wilkes,’ said Whitley in a press release. ‘Her inventiveness, curiosity and unique thinking have produced something as ambitious as it is captivating. Wilkes creates space for us to experience the full emotive potential of her materials and invites us to share in her unmistakable aesthetic.’

The exhibition will be accompanied by a new publication, designed by Yvonne Quirmbach and published by Heni, featuring new texts by both Wilkes and Whitley.



Edited April 25th: The works by Wilkes have no title rather than bearing the name ‘Untitled’ as originally stated.