Simone Leigh has been awarded a Golden Lion for Best Participant at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. Meanwhile, the work of Sonia Boyce showcased in the British pavilion, curated by Emma Ridgway, earned a Golden Lion for Best National Pavilion. Entitled The Milk of Dreams and curated by Cecilia Alemani, 2022’s Biennale Arte opened with the awards ceremony, which included a Silver Lion and four special mentions.
The curator had already announced that 2022 was to be a special year for the exhibition, with numerous female participants. But the jury’s selections further sharpened the focus on women artists and the themes they examine through their work, from racial discrimination to colonialism and feminism. Simone Leigh’s monumental sculpture Brick House, commissioned by Alemani and located at the entrance to the Corderie dell’Arsenale space, encompasses all these values.
In the jury’s words, the Golden Lion was awarded for a work that is “rigorously researched, virtuosically realized, and powerfully persuasive, and which, alongside Belkis Ayón, provided a compelling openness to the ideas, sensibilities, and approaches that populate and animate The Milk of Dreams exhibition.”
In reference to the Golden Lion for the British Pavilion, the jury mentioned the originality of the interpretive medium provided by Boyce: sound.
“Sonia Boyce offers an alternative reading of histories through sound. Working in collaboration with other black women, she reveals a multitude of untold stories. Boyce uses a highly contemporary language but in fragmented form, which viewers then piece together through their experience in the pavilion. She raises important questions regarding practice as opposed to perfect performance, as well as relationships between different voices, via a choir heard at a distance and at different points throughout the exhibition.”
The Silver Lion for Promising Young Participant went to Lebanese artist Ali Cherri “for an interdisciplinary and multilayered presentation that takes the contemplation of earth, fire, and water from a constructive to a mythical dimension, reflecting the openness of the exhibition itself to narratives that depart from the logic of progress and reason.”
Inuk artist Shuvinai Ashoona received a special mention for her ability to reveal in her drawings and paintings the depth of indigenous Inuk cosmologies.
“A way of existence in which the different species are interdependent, without the influence of the colonializing power of humans. By recognizing the violence of colonialism in her work, Ashoona suggests ways of escaping this impasse by listening deeply to the wisdom of indigenous peoples.”
A special mention also went to American artist Lynn Hershman Leeson “for indexing the cyber issues that run through the exhibitions in an illuminating and powerful way that also includes visionary moments from her own early work, which foresaw the influence of technology in our everyday lives.”
Special mentions also went to the French and Ugandan Pavilions for, respectively, having addressed “the complex history of cinema beyond the West” and its “vision of, ambition for, and commitment to art in this Central African country.”
The jury president was Adrienne Edwards, Engell Speyer Family curator and director of curatorial affairs at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and co-curator of the Whitney Biennial 2022. Edwards was previously curator of Performa in New York and general curator of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Besides involvement in interdisciplinary performance and curatorial projects, Edwards has taught art history and visual studies at New York University and The New School. She writes for a wide range of publications.
The other jury members were Lorenzo Giusti, Julieta González, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, and Susanne Pfeffer.
Location: Venezia, Italy
Date: 23 aprile 2022 - 27 novembre 2022
Photography courtesy of La Biennale Venezia
Please refer to the individual images in the gallery to look through the photo credits