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Rendering of Firelei Báez’s installation by Nate Garner. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York.
Rendering of Firelei Báez’s installation by Nate Garner. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York.

Boston’s ICA Selects Firelei Báez for Third Watershed Commission

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, announced that artist Firelei Báez has been commissioned to create her largest sculpture to date for the ICA’s Watershed, a seasonal project space in East Boston, which reopens for its third season in May. Báez’s monumental work will be a reimagining of the ruins of the Sans-Souci Palace in Milot, Haiti. Built between 1810 and 1813, the palace was the residence of Henri Christophe I, a leader of the Haitian Revolution and the first king of Haiti.

Báez will create a fantastical, underwater version of the historic site that will appear as if “the sea had receded from the Watershed floor to reveal the archaeology of human history in the Caribbean.” Commenting on the project, ICA director Jill Medvedow said: “The Watershed’s location—in a working shipyard and as a trade site and point of entry and home for immigrants over decades—provides a pivotal point of reference for the work. Her installation will invite visitors to walk through passageways, travel through time, and experience the many streams of influence and interconnectedness that the artist conjures.”

Born in Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic in 1981, Báez was brought up by a Dominican mother and a father of Haitian descent. Known for drawing from cultural and regional narratives in many of her works, Báez often weaves together historic visual cues with fantastical elements pulled from science fiction or mythology. She has had solo exhibitions at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, the Mennello Museum of American Art in Orlando, and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. She recently participated in the Tenth Berlin Biennale and Prospect.3 New Orleans and will exhibit her work in the Sixth Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince. The artist currently lives and works in New York.

When the fifteen-thousand-square-foot satellite first opened across the harbor from the ICA in 2018, an immersive installation by Diana Thater inaugurated the Anmahian Winton–designed building. For its second year, the Watershed presented the US premiere of John Akomfrah’s Purple, 2017, which combines archival footage and new film to depict how climate change is affecting the planet.