For the first time in its 127-year history, the Venice Biennale, one of the world’s most important international art fairs, awarded its first prize to two black women on Saturday evening (23).
British singer Sonia Boyce and American Simone Lee won.
Boyce won the Golden Lion for Best National Entry for his proposal for the UK Pavilion. In the “Feeling Her Way” exhibition, she uses drawings, photos, videos, and installations to depict social encounters.
The central work focuses on black British music and features meetings of singers who rehearse and improvise together in a collaborative dynamic.
In justifying the selection of the winner, the Biennale praised the way sound is used on the show. “Sonia Boyce suggests another reading of the stories through audio. By working collaboratively with other black women, she uncovers a plethora of silent stories,” the gallery says in a statement.
Lee won the Golden Lion for Best Entry for her sculptural, video, and performance work, which analyzes the construction of black femininity’s subjectivity. The gallery described her work as “rigorously researched” and “strongly compelling”.
The Venice Biennale also awarded the Lebanese artist Ali Sherri the Silver Lion Award for a young participant.
This year’s theme is “Dream Milk”. More than 200 artists were invited and 59 countries participated in their pavilions. Works will be on display until November 27.
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