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Chicago Architecture Biennial names Yesomi Umolu as artistic director for 2019 edition

The upcoming third installment of the free citywide program is starting to take shape

Yesomi Umolu.
Photo by Andrew Bruah, courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial

Just two months after wrapping up a successful second edition, the organizers of the Chicago Architecture Biennial have selected Yesomi Umolu to lead its next act. Event leadership and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that the Chicago-based curator and writer will serve as artistic director for the Biennial’s third edition launching in late 2019.

Umolu comes from a strong background in both architectural design and contemporary art curating. She currently serves as exhibitions curator at the University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, sits on the curatorial advisory board for the United States Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, and is a member of the Graham Foundation’s board of trustees.

“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.”

The Chicago Cultural Center, will once again serve as the main venue for the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Tom Harris

The next Chicago Architecture Biennial will run from September 19, 2019 through January 5, 2020. In the meantime, Umolu will develop an underlying theme for the event and staff her curatorial team.

The previous installment of the Chicago Architecture Biennial concluded in January of 2018 and attracted more than half a million visitors. Based on the theme of “Make New History,” the event showcased groundbreaking projects from 140 architects and designers from 20 countries selected by artistic directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee.

“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 Johnston and Lee in a statement regarding their successor’s appointment. “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.”