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  • Nov 06, 2023

Golden Lions Awarded to Artists Focused on Migrant Experiences

Portrait of ANNA MARIA MAIOLINO (left) and NIL YALTER (right). Courtesy the Venice Biennale Foundation. 

On November 3, Italian-Brazilian artist Anna Maria Maiolino and Cairo-born Turkish artist Nil Yalter were named recipients of the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement awards, ahead of the 60th Venice Biennale in 2024. 

Yalter was born in Cairo in 1938. Despite receiving no formal training in visual art, she moved to Paris in 1965 and immersed herself in artistic practice, incorporating drawing, photography, video, performance, and installation. A pioneer in feminist art, Yalter creates conceptual works exploring social themes from a women’s lens, including on migration, sexual liberation, orientalism, and imprisonment. She has participated in several major biennales in the last decade, such as in Istanbul (2013), Gwangju (2014), Berlin (2022), and Sharjah (2023), but this will be her first time presenting in Venice. There, she will reconfigure her installation of drawings and photography on Turkish immigrants, Exile is a hard job (1975– ), along with her iconic, sculptural work on nomadism in the form of a yurt, Topak Ev (1973).

Born in Scalea, Italy, in 1942, Maiolino left southern Italy with her family for Venezuela in 1954. She later moved to Brazil, where she studied painting, sculpture, and woodcutting at Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, joining the New Figuration art movement. Working across media such as painting, experimental poetry, performance art, and clay sculpture, Maiolino’s art reflects political and personal narratives, including life under Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964–85). Her works are in the permanent collections of international museums, from The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate in London, to the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro. Also participating in the Venice Biennale for the first time, Maiolino will present a new large-scale sculptural installation that highlights her experimentation with clay. 

Adriano Pedrosa, curator for the 2024 Biennale, which has the theme of “Foreigners Everywhere,” recommended the artists. He stated that his selection is “particularly meaningful given the title and framework of my exhibition, focused as it is on artists who have traveled and migrated between North and South, Europe and beyond, and vice versa. In this sense, my choice rests upon two extraordinary, pioneering women artists who are also migrants and who embody in many ways the spirit of [the exhibition].”  

The awards ceremony will be held during the inauguration of the Biennale on April 20, 2024. The 60th Venice Biennale will run through November 24, 2024.

Anna Lentchner is assistant editor at ArtAsiaPacific. 

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