Pace Gallery, Blum & Poe, and Galerie Kandlhofer have announced joint global representation of Acaye Kerunen, a pioneering installation artist whose work is included in the 59th Venice Biennale in Uganda’s first-ever national pavilion. A multidisciplinary figure, Kerunen has cultivated a practice that spans visual art, curation, activism, acting, poetry, writing, and performance. She will have her inaugural presentation with Pace at Frieze London 2022, where the gallery’s booth will feature a new installation by the artist. She will debut with Blum & Poe at Art Basel Miami Beach 2022, along with a solo exhibition in Los Angeles in 2023. Galerie Kandlhofer will host a solo exhibition devoted to Kerunen in Spring 2023.
Kerunen’s installations are forged from natural materials locally grown, harvested, dyed, and woven in Uganda, including banana fibre, raffia, reeds, and palm leaves. Through her work, she seeks to dismantle the hierarchies of fine art and craft, elevating women’s labour within socio-political systems. She often commissions primary women to create baskets, tablemats, winnowing trays, and other functional items before reimagining them as assemblage installations. Materiality is central to Kerunen’s artistic practice, and her mutable, expansive installations can be understood as living artworks. Through her intuitive use of material, colour, and form, the artist creates enthralling biomorphic abstractions that envelop viewers into their folds.
I’m thrilled to welcome Acaye Kerunen to Pace. Our team have been consistently awed by her use of idiosyncratic, organic materials and virtuosic stitching, weaving, embroidery, and knotting techniques. Her sculptural installations unite contemporary aesthetics with Ugandan visual traditions, bringing the country’s political and social histories to the fore of her work. Acaye’s presentation as part of Uganda’s first national pavilion at the Venice Biennale was one of my biggest highlights from the exhibition this year, and we look forward to working with our colleagues at Blum & Poe and Galerie Kandlhofer in sharing her practice with our global audienceMarc Glimcher, President and CEO of Pace Gallery,
Kerunen’s installations are deeply engaged with their environments, at once rooted in history and emancipatory in their resistance to colonialist, patriarchal narratives. Constructed using embroidery, hand stitching, knotting, and weaving techniques she learned from her mother, Kerunen’s artworks embody ancestral knowledge. The labours, songs and identities of the women in her community reverberate through the fibres of the artist’s finished works.
The impact of climate change is a central concern of Kerunen’s multifaceted, activist-minded practice. With her regenerative artistic process, Kerunen imagines a future that facilitates and encourages communal living, working, and art making. Her use of natural fibres and dyes, locally sourced from the wetlands surrounding Nalubaale (Lake Victoria) as well as the Great Lakes Region, is testament to the artist’s strong relationship to the land and people of Uganda. Kerunen has said that her incorporation of banana fibre, banana rind, and raffia in her work “speaks into a very resilient culture and practice of cultivation and living with a conscious relation to the land and regenerating an environment that is being depleted”.
VPN (Very Personal Network) (2022), Kerunen’s new mixed media installation that will figure in Pace’s presentation at Frieze London in October, comprises a spiralling constellation of loops, circles, and intricately woven curves that speak directly to the synergies of systems in the natural world. The work reflects “constant cycles of renewal,” the artist has explained. The artwork’s title playfully refers to the internet and other technologies as tools of emancipation, particularly for women, even though network connections are not always readily available or reliable in her community. As such, VPN (Very Personal Network) nods to the visible and invisible ties that bind individuals together and, in the artist’s words, “the interconnectedness of all these freedoms and oppressions”.
Kerunen’s work is showcased in the 2022 two-person exhibition Radiance: They Dream In Time in Uganda’s inaugural national pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, curated by Shaheen Merali. Kerunen presented her first solo exhibition, titled Iwang Sawa, at the Afriart Gallery in Kampala in 2021. That same year, the artist participated in a curatorial fellowship supported by Newcastle University, United Kingdom; Makerere University in Kampala; 32 Degrees East; and Afriart Gallery. In 2018, she showed her interactive, collaborative installation Kendu (2018-present) at the Nyege Nyege Ugandan culture and music festival.
Kerunen will have her debut presentation with Pace in October 2022 at Frieze London, followed by a presentation with Blum & Poe in December at Art Basel Miami Beach, and a solo exhibition at Galerie Kandlhofer in Spring 2023.
Pace, Blum & Poe, and Galerie Kandlhofer are also working closely with Stjarna.art who has independently managed Acaye Kerunen since 2021.
About the artist
Acaye Kerunen (b. Kampala, Uganda) is known for her multidisciplinary practice encompassing visual art, curation, activism, acting, poetry, writing, and performance. Her multimedia installations incorporate materials— including banana fibre, raffia, reeds, and palm leaves—grown, harvested, dyed, and woven in Uganda, and these works often meditate on the intricacies of natural systems and the impact of climate change. Enactments of labour and emancipation are also central to her work, which has been exhibited at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022; Afriart Gallery in Kampala in 2021; and the Nyege Nyege Ugandan culture and music festival in 2018. The artist holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the Islamic University in Mbale. Kerunen lives and works in Kampala.