Arthur Jafa accepts 2019 Golden Lion in Venice.

 

AN INTERNATIONAL JURY awarded the top artist prize at the 58th Venice Biennale to Arthur Jafa. The American artist and filmmaker won the Golden Lion recognizing the best participant in “May You Live in Interesting Times,” the international exhibition curated by Ralph Rugoff.

Jafa was honored for “The White Album,” a 2019 film the jury described as equal parts essay, poem, and portraiture. The panel said, “Jafa uses appropriated and original footage to reflect upon the issue of race. Just as the film critiques a moment fraught with violence, in tenderly portraying the artist’s friends and family, it also speaks to our capacity for love.”

Following his epic film “Love is the Message, The Message is Death,” which focused on the black experience, “The White Album” is about whiteness. Jafa also presented an installation of monumentally scaled tires encased in chains.

“Jafa uses appropriated and original footage to reflect upon the issue of race. Just as the film critiques a moment fraught with violence, in tenderly portraying the artist’s friends and family, it also speaks to our capacity for love.” — Jury of 58th International Art Exhibition

Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga, who also participated in the international exhibition, received special mention. Her recent show at MCA Chicago, “Otobong Nkanga: To Dig a Hole that Collapses Again,” was her first U.S. survey exhibition.

Rugoff, director of Hayward Gallery in London, invited 79 artists from around the world to participate in the international exhibition in the Central Pavilion, Giardini. In addition to Jafa and Nkanga, the list included Michael Armitage, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Stan Douglas, Anthea Hamilton, Kahlil Joseph, Julie Mehretu, Zanele Muholi, Tavares Strachan, and Henry Taylor.

The jury of this year’s Venice Biennale included Hamza Walker, director of Laxart in Los Angeles, along with Stephanie Rosenthal, president of the jury (Germany), Defne Ayas (Turkey/Netherlands), Cristiana Collu (Italy), and Sunjung Kim (Korea).

The five members also awarded the Golden Lion for best national pavilion to Lithuania. Jimmie Durham won the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. While the Silver Lion, recognizing younger emerging artists, went to Haris Epaminonda of Cyprus, who lives and works in Berlin. The awards were announced at the opening ceremony on May 11.

In recent years, African American artists have been recognized prominently at the Venice Biennale. Adrian Piper won the Golden Lion in 2015, the year Okwui Enwezor (1963-2019) curated the Central Pavilion exhibition. Mark Bradford represented the United State with a solo show in the U.S. Pavilion in 2017. This year, Martin Puryear was selected. His exhibition “Martin Puryear: Liberty / Libertà” is currently on view in the U.S. Pavilion. CT

 

The 58th Venice Biennale runs May 11-Nov. 24, 2019 in Venice, Italy

 

TOP IMAGE: Arthur Jafa (center) accepts Golden Lion award at Venice Biennale. At right, Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale (May 11, 2019). | Photo courtesy Venice Biennale

 

WATCH Arthur Jafa discuss his work at the American Academy in Berlin, including “The White Album” (April 2019)

FIND MORE Adrian Piper recently wrote a tribute to the late Okwui Enwezor in Artforum

 

BOOKSHELF
“Arthur Jafa: A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions” was published last fall. More than 800 pages, this mammoth volume puts filmmaker Arthur Jafa’s striking images in conversation with writings by a range of authors and artists including Hilton Als, Amiri Baraka, Judith Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Fred Moten, and Cecil Taylor. Jafa conducts a conversation with Deana Lawson in “Deana Lawson: An Aperture Monograph,” the first volume to document the photographer’s practice.

 

SUPPORT CULTURE TYPE
Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an editorially independent solo project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for your support.