Venice 2019 Art Biennale: Sculptor Jimmie Durham receives the Golden Lion for his lifetime achievement

Jimmie Durham (*1940) almost is a regular at the Biennale. He has been exhibiting there more than five times over the last 20 years. This year he will be rewarded with the Golden Lion for his lifetime achievement.

"May You Live In Interesting Times" is the motto of this year's 58th Art Biennale in Venice. The decision to present Jimmie Durham for the Golden Lion for his lifetime achievement fits this year's theme. Ralph Rugoff, who is curating this year’s Art Biennale and proposed Jimmie Durham for the award, describes him as an artist who “has continued to find new, ingenious and cogent ways to address the political and social forces that have shaped the world we live in”, his art being "critical, humorous and profoundly humanistic”.

Jimmie Durham is a Cherokee Indian; at least that’s what he says. The Cherokee community on the other hand denies his indigenous identity. Nonetheless, Durham has been committed to the rights of indigenous people for the past five decades. After co-founding and chairing the International Treaty Council at the United Nations, he decided that in the future he would only contribute to the political struggle through his art. Durham believed that he could achieve much more through his art than in politics.

Jimmie Durham: Eurasian Lynx (Biennale)Jimmie Durham, Eurasian Lynx (2017), Lynx skull, cotton, leather, Murano glass, metal, wire, plastic, 136 x 61 x 70 cm.  © Nick Ash


Durham has been an active sculptor for over 50 years. In addition to his sculptures, the artist also creates in other media such as drawings, collages, photographs and videos. He took part in exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale and the Documenta in Kassel and was awarded the Kaiserring of the city of Goslar in 2016.

Jimmie Durham. © William Nicholson

His artwork aims to draw attention of political and cultural forces to the history of oppression, the senselessness of violence and the powerlessness of the world's minorities. All his achievements have been driven by the liberation of fixed ascriptions of identity. In the course of his life, he wanted to detach himself in his artistic work from the established codes of the self-portrait, always with the thought of not falling into the trap of self-referential art. Most of his artworks are accompanied by a text, poetry and art merge. About his self-portraits, Durham once said that he believes nothing to be genuine but also absolutely nothing to be lies. His art lies somewhere in between.

His wild animal sculptures are well known. Animal skulls, such as those of an elk and a bison, stare at the viewer. The animal bodies consist of sheet metal, wood and metal wires. A layer of papier mâché and wool blankets cover the naked body constructs. Here, too, Durham plays artistically with the identity of his exhibits. They are animal and abstract work of art at the same time, a falsified representation of a real existing being. Ultimately, the question of what is shown is left to the viewer, for after all, everything is just a question of perception.

The award ceremony will take place during the opening ceremony on 11 May at Ca' Giustinian, the headquarters of the Biennale in the heart of Venice. The artist who is now based in Europe, will not represent any nation this year, as he did before at the Biennale. He stays faithful to his definition of himself: "These days it sounds stupid to say "I am a citizen of the world“. I don´t think I am a citizen. I think I´m a homeless person in the world.”


Padiglione Centrale Giardini
Padiglioni Centrale Giardini, Venedig. © Francesco Galli


Have you become curious? This summer, sculpture network is organizing two trips to the Venice Biennale. Join us in June or August for the largest contemporary art exhibition and discover the 58th Venice Biennale with other like-minded companions who share your passion for contemporary three-dimensional art.


Progran and registration for the Venice trip 2019



Porträt Carlotta Aubenque Autorin

Author: Carlotta Aubenque

This year Carlotta Aubenque is taking care of the sculpture network Biennale trip to Venice. She deals with all important topics around the biggest international art exhibition for us.


Bitte Pflichtfelder ausfüllen