Santa Fe’s local (yet internationally recognized) contemporary arts mecca SITE Santa Fe hasn’t hosted one of its SITE Santa Fe International (née SITE Santa Fe Biennial) exhibitions since 2018. But let’s fast-forward through the whole pandemic-changed-stuff-for-institutions spiel and get right into the news. The museum is back to doing what it does best: bringing in titans of the art world to do cool shows.
The 12th SITE Santa Fe International, slated to run from summer 2025 through early 2026, will be curated by Cecilia Alemani, the organization announced Jan. 23. Alemani, a New York-based/Italian-born arts expert, served as the artistic director of the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022—which included curating the much-lauded Milk of Dreams exhibit—and currently holds a position as the Donald R. Mullen, Jr. director and chief curator for New York City nonprofit park/public arts space High Line. The High Line affiliation in particular positions Alemani as uniquely qualified when it comes to large-scale and public-facing installation works, according to a statement from SITE, which also identifies Alemani as one of four curators ever to preside over both the Venice Biennale and the SITE International.
She’s a big deal. Alemani’s online bio, in fact, reads like a laundry list of incredible exhibits at galleries, institutions and public spaces. These include highlights such as the Tetsuya Ishida retrospective, My Anxious Self; the first public presentation of the Shah Garg Collection, featuring roughly 80 notable women artists across 80 years; and Anu Põder: Space for My Body, the first-ever solo exhibition of works by Estonian artist Anu Põder to take place outside of her native land.
“First of all, I’m very grateful I was invited, and I’m also very excited,” Alemani tells SFR. “I recently concluded [the Venice Biennale], and I’m excited to bring my expertise and knowledge of contemporary art to SITE Santa Fe; and to try a similar format on a different scale, a different site.”
Of course, it’s too early in the process for Alemani to discuss specifics. Even she isn’t quite sure what shape the International will take. But her wheels are already spinning, she says, and she plans forthcoming visits to Santa Fe, meetings with artists, including locals, and no small amount of research. And though she’ll call the shots for the show, collaborating with the SITE team is of particular importance to Alemani.
“I think it’s a process and, most importantly, it’s a journey we take together,” she explains. “My way of working is very collaborative. I look forward to exchanging ideas. In a way, that’s the most exciting part. That journey cannot be solitary. It needs to be collective.”
Alemani will join a remarkable list of SITE curators from over the years who have included but hardly been limited to notable names such as Francesco Bonami, Dave Hickey, Candice Hopkins (Carcross/Tagish First Nation), Rosa Martinez and Robert Storr. This will also be the space’s first International event since Phillips Executive Director Louis Grachos, who previously ran SITE from 1996 to 2003, returned to a leadership role in 2021.
“Cecilia is someone we are very proud to have as a guest curator and, in my mind, brings incredible talent, skill and curatorial practice,” Grachos says. “I’ve been following her work through the High Line in New York and we’re thrilled to have her create an exhibition in the spirit of something unique—we’re anticipating something strong.”
He trusts Alemani completely.
“We obviously thought about a lot of people, but based on her past work, it made it an easy decision for us. It was so intriguing to me how beautifully she constructed the show in Venice,” Grachos says. “She’s deeply rooted in art history and incorporates that in such a poetic way.”
Don’t forget, too, that SITE continues to be free for museum-goers, and Grachos says the institution is committed to keeping it so for years to come—including the 2025 International.
“[SITE] is globally well-respected,” Alemani concludes. “I think it’s both because of its history, which started so strong with major curators in the 1990s, and on top of that I think it’s the artistic nature of the region and the fact that so many groundbreaking artists live there or have lived there or have been inspired by New Mexico. When artists move to a place, there’s always a good reason to follow them.”