2019 CAB

2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial appoints Yesomi Umolu as artistic director

Architecture Art Midwest News
Yesomi Umolu at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Andrew Bruah/courtesy the Chicago Architecture Biennial)

Hot off the closing of a sometimes controversial Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB) that still drew nearly 550,000 visitors, CAB leaders and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel have announced that Yesomi Umolu has been chosen as the artistic director for the 2019 Biennial. The 2019 Biennial, now in its third iteration, will run from September 19, 2019 through January 5, 2020.

A committee comprised of Chicago Architecture Biennial board members and past artistic directors considered candidates from around the world and from a variety of disciplines ultimately selected Umolu for this year’s biennial.

“Yesomi is a visionary curator with strong roots in Chicago, and she will work tirelessly to cultivate an incredible cultural, educational, and economic event for the city,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement sent to AN. “With Yesomi at the helm, the third Chicago Architecture Biennial is sure to secure its reputation as the most innovative architectural, art, and design showcase of its kind.”

Umolu is a Chicago-based writer and curator with a background in architectural design and curatorial studies and a focus on global contemporary art and spatial practices, whose work frequently explores the political nature of the built environment. Umolu will formalize and gather an international curatorial team of practitioners with strong knowledge of architecture, visual arts, and design practices globally in the coming months. The members of the curatorial team will be announced this spring.

The move is a natural one for Umolu, who also serves as the Exhibitions Curator at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago.

“I am honored to be invited to serve as Artistic Director of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial,” said Umolu in a statement. “Having my roots in the field of architecture, spatial questions have always been an important consideration of my work with contemporary artists, architects, and urbanists from across the world. I am excited to embark on the journey of engaging the city of Chicago and it publics, as well as visitors to Chicago from across the country and around the world, in these conversations.”

The jury cited Umolu’s deep ties to the city as well as her curatorial achievements­–she was chosen for an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellowship in 2016.

“Umolu’s curatorial practice, which boldly, yet elegantly, traverses the fields of art and architecture, makes her uniquely situated for success in this role,” said Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Directors, in a joint statement. “The Biennial is a complex and multifaceted platform for exploring both the history and present-day challenges in the field, and we eagerly await the outcomes of Umolu’s curatorial inquiry and exploration.”

The 2019 Biennial will also align with the opening of EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, following a successful partnership in 2017. Todd Palmer, Executive Director of the 2017 Biennial, will be returning to lead the 2019 edition.

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