The Golden Lion for the best national pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale has been awarded to Lithuania for the exhibition ‘Sun & Sea (Marina)’. The award was presented at a ceremony in Venice on Saturday.

The Golden Lion for best participant in ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’, the International Exhibition curated by Hayward Gallery director Ralph Rugoff, was awarded to the US artist Arthur Jafa.

The Silver Lion for a promising young participant went to the Berlin-based Cypriot artist Haris Epaminonda.

Described as an ‘opera-performance’, the Lituanian presentation is by Lina Lapelyte, Vaiva Grainyte and Rugile Barzdžiukaitė. It features a cast of sunbathers dotted around a ‘beach’ which has been created in the pavilion at Marina Militare in the Castello district.

The biennale jury commended the pavilion’s “experimental spirit” and “its unexpected treatment of national representation”, adding: “‘Sun & Sea (Marina)’ is a critique of leisure and of our times as sung by a cast of performers and volunteers portraying everyday people.”

Barzdžiukaitė commented: “In this piece, we draw a line between the fragility of the human body and the fragility of the earth. We are very happy that this piece that was so fragile in nature was recognized in such a way.”

Jafa, who is known for his compelling videos that examine issues of race and American contemporary culture, presents his new film exploring whiteness, The White Album (2018), at the biennale’s Giardini site. At the Arsenale he is exhibiting an installation of large sculptures reminiscent of gallows, which have been constructed from tyres and chains.

The American-born, Berlin-based artist Jimmie Durham, who was announced last month as the recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, was also present at the awards ceremony.

The 78-year-old artist, whose work deals with issues of colonialism and Native American identity, accepted the award by singing a brief song.

The Venice Biennale 2019 continues until 24 November 2019.

1. Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė, ‘Sun & Sea (Marina)’, an opera performance, Lithuanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Andrej Vasilenko
2. Presentation of Golden Lion for best pavilion to Lithuania. Photo: Venice Biennale
3. Arthur Jafa receives his Golden Lion award for best presentation at the International Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Venice Biennale

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