AOG Travel Residency: Venice 2022 In Review

Thinking back to a week filled with art & education
October 11, 2023
Abigail Ogilvy Gallery artists in front of Simone Leigh's Pavilion
Clint Baclawski, Holly Harrison, Abigail Ogilvy Ryan, Kaylee Hennessey, Kristina McComb, Teddy Benfield, Nathaniel Price in front of Simone Leigh's U.S. Pavilion, Venice, Italy, October 2022 (Photo by Tasha Baclawski).


Written by: Abigail Ogilvy Ryan 


It was exactly one year ago that five of our Abigail Ogilvy Gallery artists, myself, and our director Kaylee Hennessey arrived in Venice, Italy for the first official AOG Travel Residency. This inaugural journey with our artists was a significant step towards answering a question we have asked ourselves since beginning the gallery in 2015: how can we support our artists beyond our regular programming?  


As a Boston gallerist, I was thrilled to hear the news that the 2022 US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale would be co-commissioned by local curators Eva Respini and Jill Medvedow of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, as part of the Biennale’s installment titled The Milk of Dreams. This was not only important because of the locality - the artist chosen by Respini and Medvedow, Simone Leigh, was slated to become the first Black woman artist to represent the US on this incredible world stage.


Having two parents that worked long careers in education, it was instilled in me from an early time in my life to pursue lifelong learning. Since opening the gallery in 2015, I had dreamed of starting a travel residency that would allow our artists to participate in the global art market beyond their immediate community. We launched a fundraising campaign to support the trip, and thanks to the support of our incredible donors we were able to bring five artists to experience the Biennale.


Venice Italy

 Venice, Italy, October 2022.


The date was October 12, 2022. The group was jet-lagged from our travels, but as our boat pulled up to a glowing Venice with the crisp, European autumn air feeling fresh on our faces, we knew we had an exciting week ahead. Our first stop (after filling up on pizza!) was the US Pavilion to witness Simone Leigh’s presentation. The monumental exterior, draped in Leigh’s signature raffia skirt, was perhaps part woman, part house: mimicking the body of work inside that conversed just as thoughtfully with the architecture of the galleries. “Simone Leigh has developed over the span of two decades a poetic body of sculptures, installations, videos, and works of social practice that centre race, beauty, community, and care as they relate to Black women’s bodies and intellectual labour.”(1) Upon entering the space, the group became silent as we navigated through the galleries in total awe of the decades worth of work in front of us. The wall labels held the familiar names of curators:

Jill Medvedow, co-commissioner

Eva Respini, co-commissioner and curator


We were beyond proud of our city and the ICA Boston, an institution that has completely reshaped how contemporary art is viewed in Boston. Once we had reconvened outside of the US Pavilion, our artists shared with us the impact Leigh’s presentation had on them:


"I was so proud to see the incredible show in the pavilion and even more excited that it was curated by ICA Boston, which has been a staple in my artistic life within the city. The scale, materials, and body of work was exceptional and I appreciated the additional printed materials, which provided an even greater depth of context for the work. Of course the building exterior was special as well and served as an incredible preview for what was about to be experienced inside."  - Clint Baclawski 

"Attending the Biennale with a group of artists from the gallery was amazing, especially sharing the immersive experiences of the pavilions with so many points of view. A stand-out for me was Simone Leigh’s work in the U.S. Pavilion. Her work is elegant, political, and monumental, and it totally changed my understanding of what ceramic sculpture can be."  - Holly Harrison


Abigail Ogilvy Gallery artists discussing Simone Leigh

 Abigail Ogilvy Gallery group discussing the U.S. Pavilion by artist Simone Leigh. Photo by Tasha Baclawski.


We spent the remaining days taking in the incredible range of art at the hundreds of other spaces around Venice. Our favorites included Anselm Kiefer at Doge’s Palace and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Kristina McComb spearheaded a half-day trip to Murano to view a glassblowing presentation and learn the history of glass in Venice. Teddy Benfield found an evening football match to attend. Nathaniel Price led an impromptu trip to the beach. At 7 months pregnant, the daily miles of walking led me to bring the group on many trips to the delicious gelato stands around town. Given the range of personalities on the trip, we enjoyed ending our days discussing the pavilions and deciding (or perhaps, arguing!) which we found the most interesting, controversial, thought-provoking, and so on.


As Kristina McComb reflects. "Hands down my favorite part of the trip was being there with the AOG group. It was absolutely amazing and being able to get to know a little more about everyone, it made me feel a little more like an artist again. I really haven't had an art community since moving back to Western Mass since I had built more of one in Boston, and I think it's important to spend time with other people in the art world. And while we all have our little quirks, you really have "collected" a fun group to be around."


Anselm Kiefer Venice Doge

 Anselm Kiefer at Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy 2022.


Beyond the art itself, the Biennale provided a unique platform for cultural exchange and discussion. Engaging in conversations with our artists while having the opportunity to get a glimpse into the global art scene was life changing for us all. The collaborative spirit of the trip fostered connections that transcended geographical boundaries, creating a sense of unity between our artists working in Boston and the greater art market.  The convergence of contemporary art, historic settings, and cross-cultural connections made this trip a truly enriching endeavor.


We are beyond grateful to everyone who supported this trip. Where will we go next? Stay tuned...


Abigail Ogilvy and Simone Leigh's artworkAbigail Ogilvy and Simone Leigh's "Cupboard" (2022). Venice, Italy.



 Gabriel Chaile (Argentina). For The Milk of Dreams, Chaile presents a group of five sculpture-ovens (two pictured) that portray, in a large format, members of his family.


Murano Glass Factory Presentation

 Murano Glass Factory, glassblowing presentation.


Germany Pavilion Venice Italy

The German pavilion presentation during the Venice Biennale 2022. Curator: Yilmaz Dziewior, Artist: Maria Eichhorn.


Group Photo on Murano island

 Teddy Benfield, Kaylee Hennessey, Abigail Ogilvy, Kristina McComb, Holly Harrison, Nathaniel Price. Photo by Abigail Price.


Gelato in Venice with Abigail Ogilvy and Kaylee Hennessey

 Abigail Ogilvy and Kaylee Hennessey enjoying gelato at the end of the day. Venice, Italy. Photo by Tasha Baclawski.



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