Richard Hamilton, the so-called father of British Pop Art, was chosen to represent Britain in 1993. Famous for this paintings and collages, the British Council already had a good relationship with Hamilton and had been collecting his works and touring them globally since the 1960s.
Not afraid to shy away from heavier themes like the tragedy of war and the frenzy of media, there was a bleakness and cynicism to his works. One of the British Pavilion's galleries was transformed into Treatment Room, now part of the Arts Council Collection. This sterile installation comprises of an uncomfortable, hard white bed, covered with a blanket that suggests the previous presence of a person, with a TV monitor hanging overhead showing Margaret Thatcher.
Like his Pop Art peer Eduardo Paolozzi, the political tensions in Ireland and James Joyce's book Ulysses (1922), had a profound influence on his work. In the Pavilion’s main gallery. The Citizen (1981-3), The Subject (1988-90) and The State (1993) were three diptych paintings, now part of Tate’s collection, that depict three differents figure relating to the conflicts in Ireland.
Hamilton was then 71 years old and was already well-established with four decades of exhibitions under his belt, in contrast to exhibitions by young and emerging British artists in previous decades. Elements of Hamilton's Tate retrospective in 1992 were shown at the Pavilion and Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate from 1988-2016 and part of the Selection Committee, explained why it was particularly relevant to spotlight Hamilton’s work at this point in time:
“Two factors in particular may have contributed to this. During the first half of [his] career to date, the closeness of his engagement with science, technology and the mass media made it difficult for an older generation to see his work on equal terms with that of the fine artists who were his true peers. Then, in more recent years, when Hamilton's standing became accepted internationally, Britain tended to select younger artists to represent it.”
Hamilton shared the highest honour of the Venice Biennale, the Golden Lion (Leone d'Oro) for the Best Artist, with Spanish artist Antoni Tapies.
Andrea Rose was the new Director of Visual Arts at the British Council and she took over from Henry Meyric Hughes as the new Commissioner, in the course of the preparations for this Biennale, with support from British Council colleagues Brendan Griggs and Gill Hedley (Deputy Commissioner).