Saturday 23 April 2022

 

The British Council is delighted to announce that Sonia Boyce OBE RA has won the prestigious Golden Lion award for Best National Participation at La Biennale di Venezia 2022 for her exhibition ‘Feeling Her Way’ at the British Pavilion. 

The artwork focuses on the vocal experimentation of five outstanding black female musicians as they embody feelings of power, freedom and vulnerability. Awarding the accolade, the jury said: “Sonia Boyce proposes … another reading of histories through the sonic. In working collaboratively with other black women, she unpacks a plenitude of silenced stories.”

On receiving this award, Sonia 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.”

Emma Dexter, British Council Director Visual Arts, Commissioner of the British Pavilion and Chair of the British Pavilion Selection Committee, said: 

“As Commissioner of the British Pavilion I could not be more delighted that Sonia Boyce’s Feeling Her Way has been recognised in this way – Sonia made a work for the Biennale that speaks of hope, experiment, joy and freedom, and the importance of remembering and celebrating women’s achievements and creativity. It is also highly significant that an artist who was part of the Black British Art movement of the 1980s has been honoured in this way – thereby bringing this crucial part of British art history into an international spotlight. On behalf of the whole British Council I congratulate Sonia Boyce on this wonderful achievement!”

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.”

Sonia Boyce’s British Council Commission for the British Pavilion, Feeling Her Way, immerses visitors in the collaborative dynamism of five Black female musicians (four British, one Swedish) brought together by the artist to improvise, interact and play with their voices. Colour-tinted video works take centre stage among Boyce’s signature tessellating wallpapers and golden 3-D geometric structures, which bring the audience into the work through their highly reflective surfaces. 

Past British winners also include Richard Hamilton (1993), Anish Kapoor (1990), Frank Auerbach (1986), Bridget Riley (1968) and Henry Moore (1948). 

The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at the International Art and Architecture Exhibitions of La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK's artists, architects, designers and curators. These exhibitions, and the British Council’s Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a major platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture. A panel of visual art specialists from across the UK selected the artist for Biennale Arte 2022. 

This year the British Pavilion is made possible through the support of individuals, companies and foundations, including headline partner, Burberry.  

Sonia Boyce’s British Council Commission for the British Pavilion at the Biennale Arte Venice has drawn record crowds during preview week and runs from today ( Saturday, 23 April) until 27 November 2022. For more information visit https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/.

Notes to Editor

Link to full press pack.

For media enquiries regarding the British Council’s commission for the British Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia please contact:

Rebecca Ward for the British Council +44 (0) 7977 071450

rebecca@rebeccaward.co.uk 

Claire McAuley, British Council +44 7542268752 

Claire.McAuley@britishcouncil.org  Or email press team: venice@britishcouncil.org

Exhibition details

The 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 23 April – 27 November 2022 

The British Pavilion is commissioned and managed by British Council Visual Arts. 

Commissioner: Emma Dexter, Director of Visual Arts at British Council

For latest news on the British Council commission: 

visualarts.britishcouncil.org/

For British Council Venice press office updates: https://venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/press

Follow updates on the #BritishPavilion via: TwitterFacebook and Instagram 

Accreditation information 

Press accreditation from La Biennale is needed to access the official Pavilions of 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia ahead of the public opening.  The accreditation for pre-opening closes on 1 April 2022. For more information on how to apply, please visit: https://www.labiennale.org/en/art/2022/accreditation

About Sonia Boyce

Sonia Boyce OBE RA came to prominence as a key figure in the burgeoning Black-British art scene of the early 1980s. She was one of the youngest artists of her generation to have her work acquired by Tate, featuring deeply personal reflections on race, class and gender in Britain.

Boyce has taken part in numerous solo and group exhibitions, both internationally and in the UK. Notable recent solo exhibitions include In the Castle of My Skin Eastside Projects, Birmingham and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art ( 2021), Manchester Art Gallery (2018), The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2017), Villa Arson, Nice (2016), and group exhibitions including Prospect 4, New Orleans (2017), and All the World’s Futures, 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2015).  2021 also saw the completion of Boyce’s major public art commission for London’s Elizabeth Line/Crossrail project Newham Trackside Wall. Boyce currently features in Tate Britain’s Life Between Islands, Caribbean – British Art 1050s – Now, and from March in Radio Ballads at the Serpentine Gallery and Barking Town Hall and Learning Centre from March. 

In 2016, Boyce was elected a Royal Academician, and in the same year received a Paul Hamlyn Artist Award. In 2019, she received an OBE for Services to Art in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, as well as an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art. Boyce is currently a Professor at University of the Arts London, where she holds the inaugural Chair in Black Art & Design. 

About Emma Ridgway

Ridgway is Chief Curator at leading contemporary arts organisation Modern Art Oxford, where she has led the artistic programme of exhibitions and learning since 2015. In the role, she has overseen exhibitions of major artists including Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid and, upcoming in Autumn 2021, former British representative at La Biennale di Venezia, Anish Kapoor. Ridgway was previously a curator at the Barbican Centre, the Royal Society of Arts, Serpentine Gallery and Khoj International Artists’ Association in New Delhi.

About the British Pavilion Selection Committee 

The artist commissioned to represent Great Britain at the Biennale Arte is selected by an advisory panel of leading visual arts professionals, from across the UK. The panel membership changes for every edition of the Biennale. The panel selecting the artist for 2022 was chaired by Emma Dexter, Director of Visual Arts at the British Council, and included:

  • Irene Aristizábal - Co-curator British Art Show 9 (2021–2022); Head of Curatorial and Public Practice, BALTIC, Gateshead
  • Beth Bate – Director, Dundee Contemporary Arts
  • Mary Cremin – Director, Void Gallery, Derry, Northern Ireland
  • Elvira Dyangani Ose – Director, MACBA Contemporary Art Museum, Barcelona 
  • David Hevey – Director, Shape Arts CEO & Artistic Director
  • Alistair Hudson – Director, The Whitworth, and Manchester Art Gallery
  • Hammad Nasar – Co-curator British Art Show 9 (2021–2022); Principal Research Fellow at the Decolonising Arts Institute, UAL; Lead Curator at Herbert Art Gallery Coventry’s City of Culture Programme 2021-22
  • Nicholas Thornton – Head of Fine Art, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

About the British Pavilion 

Artists commissioned to represent Britain have included: Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Ben Nicholson, Anthony Caro, Bridget Riley, Richard Long, Frank Auerbach, Barry Flanagan, Howard Hodgkin, Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor, Richard Hamilton, Leon Kossoff, Rachel Whiteread, Gary Hume, Mark Wallinger, Chris Ofili, Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin, Steve McQueen, Mike Nelson, Jeremy Deller, Sarah Lucas, Phyllida Barlow and Cathy Wilkes (2019).

To find out more about previous British Pavilion exhibitions and British Council Visual Arts visit: venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/history and visualarts.britishcouncil.org/

About the Venice Fellowships

The Venice Fellowships enable students and volunteers to spend a month in Venice during one of the world’s most significant art and architecture biennales:

venicebiennale.britishcouncil.org/fellowship/how-apply 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We build connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. In 2019-2020 we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive a 14.5 per cent core funding grant from the UK government. www.britishcouncil.org