Hard realism from Germany

For the first time ever, Germany has won both of the most important prizes at the Venice Art Biennale.

The German pavilion designed by the artist Anne Imhof has won the Golden Lion for best national contribution. The concept artist Franz Erhard Walther has been awarded the Golden Lion for best artist. At the German pavilion, 39-year-old Anne Imhof presents “Faust”, a performance lasting five hours. The jury praised the “powerful and unsettling work”. In her acceptance speech, Imhof explained that her contribution stands for “the right to be different”. “Anne Imhof confronts the brutality of our time with hard realism.” That is how the curator Susanne Pfeffer describes the work of the artist who is representing Germany at the Biennale di Venezia in 2017.

New York, Paris, and now Venice

Born in 1978, Anne Imhof studied visual communication under Heiner Blum at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Offenbach before enrolling at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main. She won the graduate’s prize for her graduation project in 2012. Imhof achieved international recognition in 2015 for exhibitions at MoMA PS1 in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In 2016, she caused a stir with a cycle of works entitled “Angst”, which went on show in Basel, Berlin and Montreal. Recurrent themes in her work are violence and control, identity and loss. She often uses different forms to address these themes, from painting and sculpture to installation and performance.

 In Venice, Anne Imhof will be the latest in a line-up that includes such leading German artists as Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Sigmar Polke and Martin Kippenberger, all of whom have designed the German pavilion in the post-war years alone. Germany has taken part in the Art Biennial ever since it was established in 1895, and has had its own pavilion since 1909. Germany’s contribution has now already won five Golden Lions: Sigmar Polke in 1986, Hans Haacke and Nam June Paik in 1993, Gregor Schneider in 2001, Christoph Schlingensief in 2011, and now Anne Imhof.

Walther honoured as best artist

Franz Erhard Walther, who has been honoured as best artist, is presenting a large-format work made out of textiles and steel plates in Venice. The jury praised his works for their “radical and complex character”. Walther is known for art in which the observer can take part. “As such it is possible for all of you to become a work of art”, said the 77-year-old artist.

Since 1971, the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) has coordinated Germany’s contribution to the “Biennale di Venezia” on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office.

Biennale di Venezia from 13 May to 26 November 2017


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