Ralph Rugoff

Director of Hayward Gallery and curator of Venice Biennale 2019

This year the Hayward Gallery celebrated its 50th anniversary (and Rugoff’s 12th as its director) after reopening in January following a two-year renovation. The celebrations were not seriously disrupted by the spontaneous combustion of rotting fish during the installation of Lee Bul’s summer retrospective, but the following group exhibition, Space Shifters, better exemplified the crowd-pleasing spectacularism that is, depending on who and what you believe, Rugoff’s defining strength or weakness. Either way, it is presumed that those qualities will shape his artistic direction of the 2019 Venice Biennale, to which he owes his reentry onto this list. In his curatorial statement for the biennial, titled May You Live in Interesting Times, Rugoff proposed that art ‘does not exercise its forces in the domain of politics’ but can ‘perhaps’ serve as ‘a kind of guide for how to live and think’. Which itself sounds, in these interesting times, like a political position.