British Triumph in This Year’s Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award

Artist Sonia Boyce standing in room 5 at the British Pavilion, 2022, Cristiano Corte © British Council

The Jury of the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia has revealed that the Golden Lion Award has gone to Great Britain for Feeling Her Way, a multimedia installation depicting a chorus of black female voices divided by tessellating wallpaper and golden 3D geometric structures.

The piece focuses on the vocal performances of five black female musicians: Errollyn Walle, Jacqui Dankworth, Poppy Ajudha, Sofia Jernberg, and Tanita Tikaram.

British Triumph in This Year's Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award
Room 1 in the British Pavilion featuring four performers – Errollyn Wallen, Tanita Tikaram, Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth, Cristiano Corte © British Council.

When explaining the installation, the Biennale’s five-person jury said: “Sonia Boyce proposes, consequently, another reading of histories through the sonic. In working collaboratively with other black women, she unpacks a plenitude of silenced stories.”

The British Council, who commissioned the work, said: “The rooms of the [British] pavilion are filled with sounds – sometimes harmonious, sometimes clashing – embodying feelings of freedom, power and vulnerability.”

They also praised her for raising “important questions of rehearsal” as opposed to perfectly tuned music, as well as for creating “relations between voices in the form of a choir in the distance.”

British Triumph in This Year's Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award
Room 6 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Tanita Tikaram, 2022, Cristiano Corte © British Council

Following the ceremony, Boyce said: “This is momentous, and utterly overwhelming. I want to say thank you to everyone for their support. Their generosity has been beyond my expectations. Even more so to the great team I have been fortunate to work with. The performers in Feeling Her Way – Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth MBE, Sofia Jernberg, Tanita Tikaram and Errollyn Wallen CBE – are stunning. They connect us in ways that are joyful, soulful and necessary. Venice is living up to its reputation as the city of dreams.”

This is the first time since there has been a British winner of the Golden Lion since 1993 which saw Richard Hamilton take the crown. More significantly, Boyce is the first black woman to represent the U.K. in the art biennale.

Curator Emma Ridgway, (Shane Akeroyd Associate Curator) of the British Pavilion at Biennale, said: “It is such an honour to be the curator of Sonia Boyce’s Feeling Her Way – I am thrilled that her outstanding collaborative artistic practice has been recognised with this wonderful award. Sonia Boyce is so deserving of this accolade as her significant cultural contribution spans her work as an artist, academic and educator.”

Both France and Uganda received a special mention for their pavilions.

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