Venice Biennale Awards Posthumous Golden Lions to Curators

August 31, 2020

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 59th Venice Art Biennale has postponed its 2021 edition to 2022.

In the meantime, the Board of Directors of La Biennale di Venezia has chosen to award the Special Golden Lions 2020 to four former artistic directors of the visual arts department who recently passed away.

The announcement comes to compliment the exhibition The Disquieted Muses. When La Biennale di Venezia Meets History, which has just opened at the Central Pavilion of the Giardini. 

Germano Celant, Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

Venice Biennale - Special Golden Lions 2020

Typically given to artists as lifetime achievement award, this time the Golden Lion is given to former curators of the Venice Biennale, all posthumously.

Okwui Enwezor (1963-2019) was a curator, art critic, editor, professor and writer, as well as the Director of Haus der Kunst in Munich (2011-2018). Among the many ennials he curated, there was the 2015 Venice Biennale, which turned him into the first (and to date, only) Black curator. Enwezor’s many institutional exhibitions focused on a global aesthetic rather than a Eurocentric and American one; he was interested in African, European, Asiatic, North and South American art of the 20th and 21st Century, in modern and contemporary art of Africa and the African diaspora.

Germano Celant (1940-2020), the biggest supporter of the Arte Povera movement, was an art critic, historian and artistic director who oversaw the 47th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 1997. Over the course of his fruitful career, Celant has published over a hundred books and catalogues, was a contributing editor of Interview Magazine and Artforum, was the Senior Curator for Contemporary Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Director and Artistic and Scientific Superintendant of the Fondazione Prada in Milan.

The other two Golden Lions 2020 were given out to Maurizio Calvesi (1927-2020), an art historian, critic and academic who was a member of the Board of Directors of Venice Biennale between 1980 and 1982, and was remembered for elevating the Futurist movement; and Vittorio Gregotti (1927-2020), an architect who was the director of the Visual Arts Department of Venice Biennale from 1974 to 1977 and the man behind the Barcelona Olympic Stadium and the Arcimboldi Opera Theater in Milan. 

Murals in The Disquieted Muses. When La Biennale di Venezia Meets History, Central Pavilion of the Giardini, 2020. Photo by Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia

When La Biennale di Venezia Meets History

Marking the 125th anniversary of La Biennale di Venezia’s foundation, the exhibition The Disquieted Muses. When La Biennale di Venezia Meets History is for the first time curated by all the artistic directors of the six departments - Art, Architecture, Cinema, Dance, Music and Theater.

Using sources of the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts - ASAC, as well as other Italian and international archives, they retrace key moments of the 20th century - thus presenting rare footage, first-hand accounts, and a range of artworks, commemorating the times when Venice Biennale has overlapped with the history of the world.

Laid out in the rooms of the Central Pavilion, the show is divided into six disciplines: from Fascism (1928-1945) to the Cold War and new world order (1948- 1964), to the unrest of ’68 and the Biennales chaired by Carlo Ripa di Meana (1974-78), then from the postmodernism to the first Architecture Biennale and until the 1990s, and the beginning of globalization. Curating the Art part of the exhibition is Cecilia Alemani, the curator of the upcoming 59th edition of the Venice Art Biennale in 2022.

The President of La Biennale di Venezia Roberto Cicutto stated:

La Biennale di Venezia’s international standing must also be credited to the work and the originality of its artistic directors, who throughout the history of the twentieth century have marked some of the most significant changes in contemporary culture. La Biennale was the laboratory where Calvesi, Celant, Enwezor and Gregotti expressed their original and visionary critical thinking which looked to the future, often anticipating it. The Disquieted Muses highlights them as the protagonists of an exhibition about the history of the Institution, which marks the beginning of a permanent dialogue among the contemporary arts in the spirit of common research. 

The Special Golden Lions will be awarded on September 1 at the Giardini della Biennale. The exhibition is open to public until December 8, 2020.

Featured images: Okwui Enwezor 2015. Photo by Giorgio Zucchiatti, Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia; Installation views, The Disquieted Muses. When La Biennale di Venezia Meets History, Central Pavilion of the Giardini, 2020. Photos by Marco Cappelletti, Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia.