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Angola wins Venice Biennial

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ANGOLA has won the Leone d’Oro/Golden Lion prize for the best national pavilion of the Venice Biennial.

Report by Safia Dickersbach

This distinction for an African national pavilion during this year’s 55th Venice Biennial has been greeted with inappropriate prejudice by ART — Das Kunstmagazin, the leading art magazine from Germany.

“ART” commented the jury’s decision with the question Angola! Where is Angola?

It claimed that hardly any visitor actually saw the work of the photo artist Edson Chagas in Palazzo Cini and speculated about “successful lobbying and networking” by curator Stefano Rabolli Pansera.

The only reason which was given for these vague conjectures was the fact that Pansera had already curated Angola’s contribution to the architecture biennial a year ago.

The major question in this case is: What kind of “networking and lobbying” had preceded the Leone d’Oro/Golden Lion prizes which were previously awarded to the national pavilions of the United States with Bruce Nauman in 2009 and of Germany with Christoph Schlingensief curated by Susanne Gaensheimer in 2011?

Was there also speculation happening back then about the reasons for these successes? Were those winning countries, artists and curators maybe too established and influential so that there was no reason to worry about illegitimate manoeuvring?

Are only the Africans again considered prone to cronyism and patronage which “ART” more stately translated with “networking and lobbying” to make it fit to the aristocratic environment of Venice’s palazzos?

“ART” dutifully speaks about detractors spreading such rumours, but the question remains why an influential German art magazine provides ample space for vague suppositions by obviously resentful competitors. The article was written by Ute Thun.

Thun mocked the choice of Angola’s national pavilion to mirror the motto of the main exhibition Encyclopaedic Palace by calling the Angolan presentation Luanda — An Encyclopaedic City, instead of ignoring the main exhibition’s theme as allegedly all the other national pavilions did.

The question is: What is wrong with picking up and variegating the main exhibition’s motto? Does it mean that the artistic quality of Angola’s contribution is inferior just due to its decision to artistically interpret the Venice biennial’s central theme?

Or does she want to tell us that the other national pavilions’ decision to deliberately ignore the main exhibition’s theme proves their independence and intellectualism?

lSafia Dickersbach, an art market practitioner, born in Tanzania, currently based in Germany, is the public relations director of Artfacts.Net, a British company which is the leading online database for modern and contemporary art.

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