2015 Venice Biennale

Armenia, Adrian Piper Win Venice Biennale’s Golden Lions

The Mekhitarist Monastery of the Island of San Lazzaro, Venice (Image courtesy the Armenian pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale)

The Mekhitarist Monastery of the Island of San Lazzaro, Venice.


This afternoon, at a ceremony in the Most Serene Republic, the organizers of the Venice Biennale announced the full slate of winners for this, the 56th edition of the exhibition. Adrian Piper and Armenia took home Golden Lions, the top honors—Piper in connection with her participation in Owkui Enwezor’s central show, “All the World’s Future,” and Armenia for its offsite pavilion on the Island of San Lazzaro, which includes the work of Mher Azatyan, Grigor Khachatryan, and Astghik Melkonyan.

“Piper has reformed conceptual practice to include personal subjectivity—of herself, her audience, and the publics in general,” the jury said in a statement. Piper presented an interactive piece in Enwezor’s show that asked visitors to sign written contracts with themselves to agree to one of three publicly posted statements, like “I will always do what I say I am going to do.” Her work, they wrote, “invite us to to engage in a lifelong performance of personal responsibility.”

The jury lauded Armenia, in a statement, “for forming a pavilion based on a people in diaspora, each artist engaging their specific locality as well as their heritage.” This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, it noted, and their official commendation said that the pavilion “marks the resilience of transcultural confluence and exchanges.”

Officials also presented Golden Lions that were announced last month, to artist El Anatsui and curator Susanne Ghez, the former long-serving director of the Renaissance Society in Chicago.

For each edition, the biennial also awards a Silver Lion to a promising young artist, which this year went to South Korean Im Heung-Soon for his documentary Factory Complex, which examines women’s working conditions in Asia.

The jurors—Sabine Breitwieser, Naomi Beckwith, Mario Codognato, Yungwoo Lee, and Ranjit Hoskote—also singled out three artists for special mentions: in the main exhibition, the late Harun Farocki (whose entire film catalogue is being screened there); the Aboundaddera collective, which is presenting videos from Syria; and Algerian artist Massinissa Selmani for “working in a modest medium which has the capacity to act beyond its scale.”

Finally, one national pavilion received special notice: that of the United States, which is showing Joan Jonas—“an artist of significant oeuvre and influence,” the jurors wrote.

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