Armenia Wins Golden Lion at Venice Biennale for Best National Participation

Adelina Cuberyan von Furstenberg (Center), the curator of the Armenia Pavilion poses with the Golden Lion for Best National Participation next to Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta (left) and Okwui Enwezor (right), the artistic director of Venice Art Biennale, during the awards
Adelina Cuberyan von Furstenberg (Center), the curator of the Armenia Pavilion poses with the Golden Lion for Best National Participation next to Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta (left) and Okwui Enwezor (right), the artistic director of Venice Art Biennale, during the awards

Adelina Cuberyan von Furstenberg (Center), the curator of the Armenia Pavilion poses with the Golden Lion for Best National Participation next to Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta (left) and Okwui Enwezor (right), the artistic director of Venice Art Biennale, during the awards

VENICE, Italy—The jury of the 56th Venice Biennale announced on May 9 the winners of the international art festival. Armenia was awarded the Golden Lion for its pavilion presenting works by the Armenian diaspora on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

According to the official website of the Venice Biennale, the Golden Lion for the national pavilion went to Republic of Armenia for forming a pavilion based on a people in diaspora, each artist engaging their specific locality as well as their heritage. The pavilion took the form of a palimpsest, with contemporary positions inserted into a site of historic preservation. In a year that witnesses a significant milestone for the Armenian people, this pavilion marks the resilience of trans-cultural confluence and exchanges.

In this symbolic year 2015, on the occasion of the one hundredth commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia has dedicated its pavilion at the 56th International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia to the artists of the Armenian diaspora. The Pavillion is located at the Mekhitarist Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni. Vaporetti will leave for San Lazzaro every early afternoon from the Giardini.

The curatorial concept of Armenity implies the notion of displacement and territory, justice and reconciliation, ethos and resilience. Regardless of their place of birth, the selected artists carry within their identity the memory of their origins. Through their talent and willpower, these grandchildren of survivors of the Armenian Genocide—the first genocide of the 20th Century— rebuilt a “transnational assembly” from the remnants of a shattered identit y. Their ingrained concern for memory, justice and reconciliation skillfully transcends notions of territory, borders and geography. Whether they were born in Beirut, Lyon, Los Angeles, or Cairo and wherever they may reside, these global citizens constantly question and reinvent their Armenity.

Armenity is being held in a setting of special significance for the Armenian diaspora. It was on the Island of San Lazzaro, located between San Marco and the Lido and facing the Giardini of the Biennale, that in 1717 the Armenian monk Mekhitar established the Mekhitarist Order. It was here that in the early 19th century Lord Byron studied the Armenian language. Many important works of European literature and religious texts were first translated into Armenian on this scenic island. Over its three-hundred years history the Monastery of San Lazzaro with its gardens, former print shop, cloisters, museum and library, has helped to preserve Armenia’s unique cultural heritage, much of which might otherwise have been lost.

The curator of the pavilion is Adelina Cüberyan von Fürstenberg who is renowned international curator from Switzerland.

A pioneer in the field, she is known for broadening contemporary art to include a multicultural approach. She was one of the first curators to show active interest in non-European artists and established a signature multicultural approach in art.

She is the Founder and the first Director of the Centre d’Art Contemporain of Geneva. Her work as Director of Le Magasin at the Centre National d’Art Contemporain of Grenoble and of its School of Curators was internationally recognized with an award at the Biennale of Venice (1993). She has organized numerous large-scale exhibitions around the world including Dialogues of Peace to mark the United Nations’s 50th anniversary (1995). She was appointed by UNHCR and the European Commission to produce Stories on Human Rights, 22 short fiction films for the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2008). In 2013 she was Chief Curator of the 4th Thessaloniki Biennale.

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