Both artists were selected by the Biennale’s board at the suggestion of Massimiliano Gioni, curator of the international art exhibition, “The Encyclopedic Palace.” The awards will be presented during the exhibition’s opening.
Known for her self-portraits, which she calls “Körperbilder” or “body awareness paintings,” Lassnig (b. 1919) has been painting for over 60 years. She represented her native Austria at the country’s pavilion at the 1980 Biennale, participated in two Documenta exhibitions in Kassel, Germany (1982 and 1997), and has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions. “Lassnig, at ninety-three years old, represents a unique example of obstinacy and independence that deserves to be celebrated with the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement,” said Gioni in a press release.
The only woman in Italy’s Turin-based Arte Povera movement, Merz (b. 1926) has worked in painting, sculpture and drawing since the 1960s. Her work, which often focuses on the domestic, the psychological interior and the feminine, has been included in major group and solo exhibitions internationally. A Biennale participant in 1988 and 2001, Merz was recognized on the latter occasion with a “La Biennale di Venezia” special prize.
Additional Golden Lions for such honors as the best national pavilion and best artist in the international exhibition will be awarded at the opening ceremony. Recent Lifetime Achievement awards have gone to Sturtevant and Franz West (2011), Yoko Ono and John Baldessari (2009), and Malick Sidibé (2007).