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Venice Biennale: artists Nil Yalter and Anna Maria Maiolino, winners of the 2024 Golden Lion Award

Dépêches de l'Art

by Kim Rives on 11.08.2023

updated the 11.09.2023

Nil Yalter and Anna Maria Maiolino © Oliver Abraham © Maycon Lima

The 60th Venice Biennale has decided to award the Golden Lion to Nil Yalter and Anna Maria Maiolino for lifetime achievement. The two artists will receive their awards at a ceremony, held on April 20th, 2024 at the Ca' Giustinian, the Biennale's headquarters.

After Katharina Fritsch and Cecilia Vicuña in 2022, two new women, Turkish Nil Yalter and Brazilian Anna Maria Maiolino, have been awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Both artists will be taking part in the Venice Biennale for the first time, from April 20th to November 24th 2024. For the 60th International Art Exhibition, entitled "Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere", curator Adriano Pedrosa has chosen the theme of migration and exile.

An edition on the theme of immigration

Anna Maria Maiolino will be presenting a large-scale installation following her series of sculptures in raw clay with evocative organic forms. As for Nil Yalter, she will be presenting a variation on her artwork entitled Exile is a hard job. Adriano Pedrosa, the exhibition curator, was keen to choose this pair of artists, recalling their backgrounds: "I chose two extraordinary, pioneering women artists who are also migrants, and who in many ways embody the spirit of 'Stranieri Ovunque - Foreigners Everywhere'.

Anna Maria Maiolino was born in Scalea, Italy in 1942. Her family, of Italian origin, immigrated to Venezuela in 1954. The young woman then immigrated to Brazil, where she still lives. She entered the Rio de Janeiro School of Fine Arts at the age of 18, in 1960. Nil Yalter was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1938, and her family, of Turkish origin, returned to Istanbul, where she grew up. The young self-taught artist arrived in Paris in 1965 at the age of 27. For this edition, the Brazilian curator claims to have chosen "artists who are themselves foreigners, immigrants, expatriates, diasporics, emigrants, exiles and refugees, particularly those who have moved between the South and the North".

The title of the exhibition comes from an artwork by the Claire Fontaine collective, founded in Paris in 2004, an assemblage of neon lights forming the phrase "Foreigners Everywhere". The phrase itself is borrowed from the name of a Turin-based collective that fought against racism and xenophobia in Italy in the early 2000s: Stranieri Ovunque (Foreigners Everywhere).

Nil Yalter, the throes of exile and the status of women

At the Biennial, the Turkish artist will be showing a variation of a corpus of artworks that began in 1975 and are still in progress. She photographs and draws Turkish immigrants, men, women and children, then prints these portraits on posters that she mounts in the streets or in museums. She then paints the words "Exile is a hard job" over the posters in red letters, which she repeats in several languages, including French, Greek and Arabic.

Nil Yalter borrows this phrase from the Turkish poet Nâzim Hikmet, who himself died in exile in Moscow in 1963. The winner has been chosen for numerous retrospectives and solo exhibitions, and her artworks are collected by major institutions (including the Tate and the Centre Pompidou). At the Museum of Modern Art of Paris, she showed her yurt Topak Ev in 1973, which explored the living conditions of nomadic groups in Turkey.

nil yalter bio.jpg

Nil Yalter © Isabelle Arthuis

In Vitry-sur-Seine, at the MAC VAL in 2019, she focused on the condition of women around the world. The artist, who is internationally recognised for her commitment to feminism, presented a deeply moving work entitled Lapidation (2009).

Anna Maria Maiolino

Anna Maria Maiolino is also an internationally renowned artist who is widely collected and exhibited. In 2019, for example, she had a retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. She exhibited at numerous biennials around the world, including São Paulo (2010, 1998, 1991, 1994, 1967) and more recently Lyon (2017). Her work has been included in the collections of the MoMA in New York, the Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. Anna Maria Maiolino made a name for herself in the 60s as part of the Brazilian Nova Figuração (New Figuration) movement. In 1967, she took part in the historic group exhibition New Brazilian Objectivity, alongside artists such as Helio Oiticica, Rubens Gerschman, Raymundo Colares and Antonio Dias.

She denounced censorship and the Brazilian dictatorship (1964-1985) with artworks such as A Viagem (The Journey, 1966). During this period, she mainly worked sculpture and wood engraving, as well as painting. It was in the 90s that clay modelling made its appearance in the work of this multidisciplinary artist. She then created installations of sculptures in organic forms whose fragility are palpable, because she chose to leave the clay raw. For her exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2024, she has chosen to explore in greater depth the work of the handmade and elementary materials. The latter can also evoke the gendered division of domestic tasks.

This feminist concern has never left her. In one of her landmark works, In-Out Antropofagia, a close-up of mouths filmed with a Super 8 camera, she was already denouncing in 1973 the silence weighing on women in a society dominated by men.

« Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere »
60th international exhibition of the Venice Biennale
Giardini and Arsenal, Venice
Avril 20th to November 24th 2024

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