The Poignant Presence of National Pavilions at the Venice Biennial for Contemporary Art in 2019
The Venice Biennale is the world’s most prestigious international art exhibition platform, where artists make contributions based on a curatorial theme in the framework of both group exhibitions and national pavilions.
A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.
For this show, Ralph Rugoff has invited 79 artists, many of whom have used various aesthetic media, such as sculpture, painting and video, for their works exhibited in two separate architectural settings, the Giardini and the Arsenale, in Venice, as a reporter from the Philippines Star newspaper reminds.
In addition to the primary curated exhibition in the International Pavilion of the Giardini and the Arsenale, visitors can explore 90 nationally sponsored pavilions as well as 21 collateral exhibitions in which individual artists present their personal take on the theme of the biennale. The top prize of this year’s biennial, the Golden Lion for the best national pavilion, was awarded to Lithuanian artists Lina Lapelyte, Vaiva Grainyte and Rugile Barzdziukaite for their work entitled “Sun and Sea (Marina).” Curated by Lucia Pietroiusti, it is a performative installation that presents sunbathers of various ages and different nationalities on an artificial white sand beach.
The national pavilion of Belgium was awarded a special mention for its “Mondo Cane” exhibition, curated by Anne-Claire Schmitz, showing the artworks of Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys. The American artist Arthur Jafa has received the Golden Lion prize for the best artist with his video titled “The White Album. ” Likewise, the Cypriot artist Haris Epaminonda received the Silver Lion award as the most promising young artist for her mixed media installation.1
The attention of Laura Cumming of The Observer, was drawn to the Korean pavilion, where ancient and modern dance steps were presented in a sequence of captivating films. The Finnish pavilion, for this year’s biennale, has featured a meadow of flora and fauna blowing across its ceiling: a video projection showing a world turned upside down. The grandest exhibit of the 2019 biennial was considered Martin Puryear ‘s American pavilion.
In the Ghana’s pavilion, in its inaugural show, films by John Akomfrah and eerie portraits of fictional black people by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye were to be seen, in addition to bottle-top hangings and black-and-white portraits from the 1960s by Felicia Abban, Ghana’s first professional female photographer. The black South African artist Zanele Muholi mesmerized her work’s viewers with coils of sinister-looking rope nooses for hair.
The artwork by the Bahamanian artist Tavares Strachan presented an exquisite memorial to Robert Henry Lawrence as a figure momentarily suspended as it falls to the earth, as it combined drawing and sculpture for a radiant effect. The French pavilion, as a high point of the 2019 biennale, screened a film of epic proportions in which Laure Prouvost offered an original homage to the sea, featuring glass oceans, operatic song and live performers.
The international pavilion, curated by Ralph Rugoff, has exhibited contemporary the topics of which comprised the civil rights films of LA’s Arthur Jafa, Frida Orupabo’s double-take collages of black women, and Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s surveillance films.2
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: Lithuanian Pavilion Venice 2019, Venice, Italy, July 21, 2019 | © Courtesy of MANYBITS/Flickr.
- Philippines Star. (2019). “‘A day at the beach’ other stories at the 2019 Venice Biennale.” Philippines Star [Manila, Philippines], 22 Sept. 2019. Gale OneFile: News, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A600427527/STND?u=lirn17237&sid=STND&xid=8ac0c18a. Accessed 4 Nov. 2019.
- Cumming, Laura. (2019). “Venice Biennale 2019 review — preaching to the converted; There is much to praise from Ghana, India, France, and a stunning international pavilion. Less admirable is a true horror on the Arsenale…” The Observer, London, England, 12 May 2019. Gale OneFile: News, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A585222673/STND?u=lirn17237&sid=STND&xid=f402db85. Accessed 4 Nov. 2019.