El Anatsui with his Golden Lion flanked by Curator Okwui Enwezor and Biennale President Paolo BarrataVenice Biennale Honours Ghanaian Artist El Anatsui


 The 56th edition of the Venice Biennale - the world's oldest, largest and most prestigious art gathering - has awarded its Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Brahim El Anatsui. The 71-year-old Ghanaian-born Nigeria-resident El Anatsui is acclaimed worldwide for his unique intricate shimmering metallic wall-hanging sculptures created from flattened aluminum bottle-tops, tin cans, bits of printing plates and roofing sheets, amongst other recycled materials, held together by copper wires.

The Golden Lion for Best Artist went to US-born Berlin-resident Adrian Piper, a pioneering conceptual artist. Piper "exhorts the viewer to a lifelong commitment to personal responsibility," Okwui Enwezor, Curator of the 56th Biennale themed "All the World's Futures," said at the Open Day awards ceremony, May 9, in the Ca' Giustinian Palace, in the heart of the Venetian city.

The Golden Lion for Best National Pavilion went to the Republic of Armenia, with its banner, "Armenity: Contemporary Artists from the Armenian Diaspora." A Silver Lion for a Promising Young Artist went to South Korean Im Heung-Soon for his video on the struggles of female workers across Asia. A Special Golden Lion for Services to the Arts went to Suzanne Ghez (USA). Joan Jonas received a Special Mention for her seminal video and performance art.

The Jury awarded three other Special Mentions: The first, a posthumous honoring of Harun Farocki (1944–2014), a German filmmaker of Indian immigrants. Farocki was a seminal figure in post-war cinema, an author, lecturer and media theorist. The Second was the Abounaddara filmmakers collective founded in 2010, an anonymous group providing an alternative image of war-torn Syrian society different from the prevailing representations in the mainstream media, a short film every week, a sort of "emergency cinema." The third was Algerian Massinissa Selmani for working in a modest medium of small drawings and low tech installations and yet with a capacity to act and influence beyond their scale. The Jury comprised Naomi Beckwith, Sabine Breitwieser, Mario Codognato, Ranjit Hoskote, and Yongwoo Lee.

For the first time in its 120 years of existence the Biennale, presided by Italian banker and statesman Paolo Baratta, tapped an African to curate the 56th edition: Nigerian Okwui Enwezor, director of world-famous Haus der Kunst, Munich.

Osei G Kofi/Venice   

  • 56th Venice Biennale Award Winners
  • El Anatsui masterpiece - Palazzo Fortuny Venice 2011 - Courtesy Axel Vervoordt
  • El Anatsui with his Golden Lion flanked by Curator Okwui Enwezor and Biennale President Paolo Barrat
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