The Golden Lion for best national participation at the 58th Venice Biennale has been awarded to the Lithuanian Pavilion. Sun & Sea (Marina) – an operatic performance for which a cavernous room in a military complex was reimagined as an artificial beach scene – was a collaboration between artists Lina Lapelyte, Vaiva Grainyte and Rugile Barzdziukaite and curator Lucia Pietriousti. Developing themes of catastrophe and loss in a superficially peaceful scene, the looping, hour-long performance was the word-of-mouth success of the biennale's opening week, drawing crowds away from the main Giardini and Arsenale sections.
American artist Arthur Jafa took the Golden Lion for best participant in the central international exhibition, for which curator Ralph Rugoff invited 79 artists to contribute works to exhibition spaces in both the Giardini and Arsenale. Jafa's The White Album (2019), a 50-minute video collage of viral YouTube clips, music videos, CCTV footage and personal material, was counterpointed by a set of monumental sculptures in the Arsenale. Collectively the works served as a commentary on issues of race, industrial decline and white supremacy in the United States. The Silver Lion for a promising young participant in the central show, meanwhile, went to Haris Epaminonda, whose Chimera (2019) offered an atypically reflective moment in an otherwise loud show; Teresa Margolles and Otobong Nkanga received special mentions for their contributions.
13 May 2019