Judging Venice Biennale: How is the Golden Lion selected? Panellist interview

CURATOR INTERVIEW VENICE BIENNALE ART AWARDS

In part one of our interview with Liu Ding and Carol Yinghau Lu we spoke with them about Ding’s residency in Manchester and the duo’s tour through Europe. In part two, we hear their views of the 2011 edition of the Venice Biennale.

Lu served on the selection panel for the Golden Lion Award, a prestigious art award inaugurated in 1974 that is presented to an artist and a national pavilion showing at the Venice Biennale. In this interview we hear about the prize selection process and Lu and Ding’s views on the Chinese Pavilion, and ask them about the value of the plethora of biennales in today’s contemporary art.

Chinese curator Carol Yinghau Lu.

Chinese curator Carol Yinghau Lu.

Ms Lu, when did you learn you were one of the judges for the 2011 Venice Biennale?

Carol Yinghua Lu (CL): I learned [that I would be on the selection panel for the Golden Lion Award] at the beginning of March [2011], and the news was announced to the public around May. There are five judges on the jury.

What kind of preparation did you need for the position?

CL: I just needed to familiarise myself with some of the artists in the Biennale and I received all of the other information upon arriving in Venice.

Can you share with us the selection process?

CL: We spent four days, from 9am to 7pm non-stop, looking at all the works. There are more than eighty works in the curated ILLUMInations show in the Giardini and Arsenale, from which we needed to select the recipient of the Golden Lion for the best artist and the Silver Lion for the best promising young artist. We also needed to view all of the national pavilions to select the winner of the Golden Lion for national participation.

CL: At the end of viewings each day we had a review session [and] on day five we spent the whole day in discussion. Throughout the process all of the judges got to know the others’ tastes and the angle from which they viewed the works as well as their basis for judgement, so it was not too difficult to make the final decision on day five.

The Jury for the Venice Biennale 2011: Hassan Khan, John Waters, Letizia Ragaglia, Christine Macel, Carol Yinghua Lu, with Bice Curiger and Paolo Baratta.

The Jury for the Venice Biennale 2011: Hassan Khan, John Waters, Letizia Ragaglia, Christine Macel, Carol Yinghua Lu, with Bice Curiger and Paolo Baratta.

Christoph Schlingensief, German Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011. Courtesy of Vernissage TV

Christoph Schlingensief, German Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011.

Of course the final decision reflects the consensus of all the judges, but what was the criteria you all considered most important?

CL: It really just came down to the quality and the power that good art has. The winning German Pavillion clearly stirs your emotions when you first go inside, then you encounter a deeper intellectual experience after learning about the stories of the artists who passed away during the design of the pavilion. The curator continued on with this challenging project [despite the tragedy] and turned the pavilion into [a tribute to] the practice of the artist. On one level it won because it clearly shows the commitment to art of both the artist and the curator.

CL: The Clock (2010) by Christian Marclay was a piece that struck the jury panel the most, collectively. It has been shown many times, but this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered on an even ground with other works. Nationality doesn’t matter either. The Special Mention (National Pavilion) award was presented to the Lithuanian Pavilion, which has actually won three times in the history of the Biennale.

Christian Marclay, 'The Clock', 2010.

Christian Marclay, 'The Clock', 2010.

Given your background, what was your impression of the Chinese Pavilion?

CL: Acknowledging that there is always a cultural communication gap, I still felt a bit frustrated with the result. You clearly see how [in China] intellectual knowledge or art is not valued or respected, but represents politics. It looks like we are in the globalised world, for example, we might consume cultural products in a museum in China in the same ways as others would in the Tate, but in reality there is still a gap in our attitude towards art.

Do you think it could be said that the selection of artists for a pavilion at Venice is also a reflection on the politics and not just the art of that particular country?

Liu Ding (LD): Selecting the artists does not matter in this context. It’s a simple projection of power and an imagination of such power.

Yang Maoyuan, All Things Are Visible. At Chinese Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011, Courtesy of Vernissage TV

Yang Maoyuan, 'All Things Are Visible' at the Chinese Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011.

Cai Zhisong, Clounds and Yuan Gong, Empty Incense at Chinese Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011. Courtesy of Designboom

Cai Zhisong, 'Clouds and Yuan Gong, Empty Incense' at Chinese Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2011.

What is the importance of the Venice Biennale for art itself and for the art market?

LD: It is a very important platform for critical artistic debate. Two camps exist: one for artistic critical acclaim and another for commercial success. Sometimes [these two approaches] overlap and sometimes they do not.

CL: The power of the so-called ‘Venice-effect’ is still dependent on each individual artist and how one decides to work after [they have appeared at Venice].

Let us explore the power of such events a bit more. Do you think that the perception of Chinese art in the West can be broadened by the presence of Chinese art at the Venice Biennale?

LD: There could be some interesting discussion on this. Clearly, there is the objective existence of things. How you come to understand them depends on your existing set of knowledge. Many of the Chinese contemporary art selections [made by Western collectors and for acquisitions internationally] are still coloured by colonial perceptions.

LD: Participation in the Venice Biennale does not guarantee that what an artist creates is interesting, [and] for some art, not being visible doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or has less value. Of course, the definition of ‘value’ here merits longer investigation.

More on Carol Yinghua Lu and Liu Ding

In an interview recently published on Art Radar, Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu discuss Liu Ding’s conceptual project Liu Ding’s Store and their collaborative project Little Movements, both of which investigate the formation of values in contemporary art and the role that individuals and institutions play in this world. Both ongoing projects have received international attention and they have been invited to participate in forums and exhibitions worldwide.

SXB/KN/HH

Related Topics: art curators, biennales, Chinese artists

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