Sonia Boyce ©

Sarah Weal

Tuesday 15 February 2022


The British Council has commissioned artist Sonia Boyce OBE RA to represent Great Britain at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, presenting a major solo exhibition of new work, from 23 April to 27 November 2022. 

Boyce’s exhibition will be a new multi-media installation comprising video, sound, wallpaper and sculptural objects, throughout the galleries of the British Pavilion. The new work will show the vitality of collaborative play leading to artistic innovation, a central tenet of Boyce’s practice, as well as the importance of taking intuitive creative risks. 

Boyce’s practice is improvisational and highly collaborative, inviting contributors or participants to come together and speak, sing or move in relation to the past and the present. At the heart of Boyce’s work is an empowering exploration of gestures and events, with an underlying focus on the personal and political subjectivities behind them. 

On the British Council Commission, Sonia Boyce commented: 

“Few would question the enormous challenges we have collectively faced over the past two years. What has shone through, for me, in this journey to create a new body of work is the irrepressible spirit of human creativity.

“The people that have agreed to go on this journey with me have shone bright.”

Emma Ridgway, Shane Akeroyd Associate Curator of the British Pavilion at Biennale Arte 2022, said: 

“Sonia Boyce depicts intimate social encounters to explore dynamics between people, often with a focus on unexpected gestures. Working across drawing, photography, video and installation for the last 20 years, Boyce’s artistic enquiry centers on how identities are performed, particularly when individuals are aware of being seen. We are looking forward to sharing this new exhibition, born out of this outstanding artist’s creative collaborations, at the British Pavilion this year.”

Emma Dexter, British Council Director Visual Arts, Commissioner of the British Pavilion and Chair of the British Pavilion Selection Committee, said: 

 “I am delighted that Sonia Boyce will place creative experiment, collaboration, improvisation and dialogue at the core of her British Council Commission 2022, in an installation that will be quite unlike any other in the long history of the British Pavilion. Boyce is an artist whose work embodies inclusiveness, generosity and the importance of working together, and I have no doubt that it will prove to be a truly inspirational addition to this year’s Biennale Arte. This is Boyce’s most ambitious exhibition to date, which raises important questions about the nature of creativity and its relationship to freedom and power.”

The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK's artists, architects, designers and curators. These exhibitions, and the British Council’s Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a major platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture. A panel of visual art specialists from across the UK selected the artist for Biennale Arte 2022. 

 In December 2020, the British Council appointed Emma Ridgway as the Shane Akeroyd Associate Curator of the Pavilion to work alongside Sonia Boyce and the British Council team to deliver the exhibition. This post is generously supported by Shane Akeroyd and offers mid-career curators a unique professional opportunity to work with a leading British artist on a global platform.

Notes to Editor

Link to full press pack.

For media enquiries regarding the British Council’s commission for the British Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia please contact:

Rebecca Ward for the British Council +44 (0) 7977 071450 

Claire McAuley, British Council +44 7542268752  Or email press team:

Exhibition details

The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 23 April – 27 November 2022 

The British Pavilion is commissioned and managed by British Council Visual Arts. 

Commissioner: Emma Dexter, Director of Visual Arts at British Council

For latest news on the British Council commission:

For British Council Venice press office updates:

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Accreditation information 

Press accreditation from La Biennale is needed to access the official Pavilions of 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia ahead of the public opening.  The accreditation for pre-opening closes on 1 April 2022. For more information on how to apply, please visit:

About Sonia Boyce

Sonia Boyce OBE RA came to prominence as a key figure in the burgeoning Black-British art scene of the early 1980s. She was one of the youngest artists of her generation to have her work acquired by Tate, featuring deeply personal reflections on race, class and gender in Britain.

Boyce has taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions, both internationally and in the UK. Notable recent solo exhibitions include In the Castle of My Skin Eastside Projects, Birmingham and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art ( 2021), Manchester Art Gallery (2018), The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2017), Villa Arson, Nice (2016), and group exhibitions including Prospect 4, New Orleans (2017), and All the World’s Futures, 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2015).  2021 also saw the completion of Boyce’s major public art commission for London’s Elizabeth Line/Crossrail project Newham Trackside Wall. Boyce currently features in Tate Britain’s Life Between Islands, Caribbean – British Art 1050s – Now, and from March in Radio Ballads at the Serpentine Gallery and Barking Town Hall and Learning Centre from March. 

In 2016, Boyce was elected a Royal Academician, and in the same year received a Paul Hamlyn Artist Award. In 2019, she received an OBE for Services to Art in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art. Boyce is currently a Professor at University of the Arts London, where she holds the inaugural Chair in Black Art & Design. 

About Emma Ridgway

Ridgway is Chief Curator at leading contemporary arts organisation Modern Art Oxford, where she has led the artistic programme of exhibitions and learning since 2015. In the role, she has overseen exhibitions of major artists including Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid and, upcoming in Autumn 2021, former British representative at La Biennale di Venezia, Anish Kapoor. Ridgway was previously a curator at the Barbican Centre, the Royal Society of Arts, Serpentine Gallery and Khoj International Artists’ Association in New Delhi.

About the British Pavilion Selection Committee 

The artist commissioned to represent Great Britain at the Biennale Arte is selected by an advisory panel of leading visual arts professionals, from across the UK. The panel membership changes for every edition of the Biennale. The panel selecting the artist for 2022 was chaired by Emma Dexter, Director of Visual Arts at the British Council, and included:

  • Irene Aristizábal - Co-curator British Art Show 9 (2021–2022); Head of Curatorial and Public Practice, BALTIC, Gateshead
  • Beth Bate – Director, Dundee Contemporary Arts
  • Mary Cremin – Director, Void Gallery, Derry, Northern Ireland
  • Elvira Dyangani Ose – Director, MACBA Contemporary Art Museum, Barcelona 
  • David Hevey – Director, Shape Arts CEO & Artistic Director
  • Alistair Hudson – Director, The Whitworth, and Manchester Art Gallery
  • Hammad Nasar – Co-curator British Art Show 9 (2021–2022); Principal Research Fellow at the Decolonising Arts Institute, UAL; Lead Curator at Herbert Art Gallery Coventry’s City of Culture Programme 2021-22
  • Nicholas Thornton – Head of Fine Art, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

About the British Pavilion 

Artists commissioned to represent Britain have included: Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Ben Nicholson, Anthony Caro, Bridget Riley, Richard Long, Frank Auerbach, Barry Flanagan, Howard Hodgkin, Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor, Richard Hamilton, Leon Kossoff, Rachel Whiteread, Gary Hume, Mark Wallinger, Chris Ofili, Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin, Steve McQueen, Mike Nelson, Jeremy Deller, Sarah Lucas, Phyllida Barlow and Cathy Wilkes (2019).

To find out more about previous British Pavilion exhibitions and British Council Visual Arts visit: and

About the Venice Fellowships

The Venice Fellowships enable students and volunteers to spend a month in Venice during one of the world’s most significant art and architecture biennales: 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. In 2019-2020 we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 14.5 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.