Venice Biennale’s Top Prizes

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‘May You Live In Interesting Times’ – the International Exhibition of the Art Biennale – features works from 79 selected artists whose works challenge existing habits of thought. The works approach subjects ranging from racism to climate change, immigration to consumerism. 

An awards ceremony was held following the pre-opening of the exhibition, here are this year’s winners and notable participants.

"The exhibition explores cultural boundaries [and] presents the notion that everything connects with everything else." - Ralph Rugoff

(Above: Arthur Jafa with Biennale President Paolo Baratta, and his film ‘The White Album’)

American artist Arthur Jafa was awarded the Leone d’Oro for the Best Individual Participant for his film titled ‘The White Album’.  Jafa reflects on racial themes within society and also approaches issues of violence.

The Leone d’Argento for a promising young artist was awarded to Haris Epaminonda, from Cyprus, whose work combines images, objects and text that reflect memories and stories.

Lithuania Pavilion

The Leone d’Oro for the best National Participant was awarded to the Lithuanian Pavilion for the installation and performance Sun & Sea (Marina).

The pavilion is located in an old naval building and is essentially a room filled with sand and beach-goers, which visitors can observe from a viewing platform above. The underlying message of the pavilion is of environmental damage and the negative effects that we have on nature.

A special mention was also awarded to the Belgian pavilion, located in the Giardini for the exhibition ‘Mondo Cane’. The space features automated dolls: artisans at the center of the building, whereas the side rooms are full of zombies, poets, psychotics, and the marginalized. These two worlds exist in the same space, but they seem to be entirely unaware of one another. “We enter the pavilion as if we were entering a wonderland – full of beauty and ugliness.”

‘Veins Aligned’ by Otobong Nkanga


The jury also gave special mentions to Mexican artist Teresa Margolles and Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga.

Nkanga describes landscape like a body which nourishes and provides, but which is also exploited. In Veins Aligned, the 26 meter long ‘vein’ is made of glass and marble, with clouded sections throughout the marble, referring to chemical pollution.

Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga sums up the theme of this Biennale: “It feels like history is a hole that we keep on excavating and building on – and then it collapses again, and something new starts.”

By: Isabelle James