The decision has been made by the Board of la Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Paolo Baratta, following the proposal of the curator of the 55th International Exhibition, Massimiliano Gioni, who presented the following motivations:
“For more than sixty years Maria Lassnig has investigated representation, both of the body and of the individual, in paintings that often depict the artist in a state of restlessness, excitement, or despair. Through her self-portraits, Lassnig has composed a personal encyclopedia of self-representation and, through what she calls ‘body-awareness paintings,’ has used painting as an instrument of self-analysis. Lassnig, at ninety-three years old, represents a unique example of obstinacy and independence that deserves to be celebrated with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.”
“Since the 1960s, Marisa Merz has been a singular voice in contemporary art. Beginning with her early work, which she carried out alongside the protagonists of Arte Povera, Marisa Merz has distinguished herself by her reflection on the domestic realm and handicraft techniques stereotypically associated with female labor. The artist has developed a personal language in which painting, sculpture, and drawing give shape to apparently archaic and primordial images. These contemporary icons and stylized faces rise to the surface as divine apparitions. Her epiphanic paintings, as if cultivated through years in solitude, invite us to look at the world with closed eyes – as the artist suggested with the title of her 1975 exhibition, With Closed Eyes, The Eyes Are Extraordinarily Open.”
The awards will be officially presented to the two artists on June 1, 2013, at 11 a.m., during the opening and award ceremony of the exhibition.
Maria Lassnig, born 1919 in Kappel am Krappfeld, Austria, lives and works in Vienna.
Since the beginning of her career, Maria Lassnig has focused on self-portraiture. Her early works are markedly expressionistics and rooted both in the early twentieth-century figurative traditions and in the reflection on the body developed by the Viennese Actionists. In recent years, Lassnig has produced what she calls “drastic paintings,” which feature even more dramatic images. These works, which the artist describes as “pure realism, a little embellished and uglified,” explores tumultuous emotional states. With these paintings, Lassnig blurs the boundaries between internal reality and external representation, and between subjective experience and objective perception. In 1980, Lassnig exhibited in the Austrian Pavilion at la Biennale di Venezia; she has also participated in two editions of Documenta, the 8th Gwangju Biennale and in many important group exhibitions. She has been featured in solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, at MUMOK in Vienna, at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, at the Serpentine Gallery in London and at the Lenbachhaus in Monaco.
Marisa Merz, born in 1926 in Turin, Italy, lives and works in Turin.
A central figure in postwar Italian art, Marisa Merz started her career in late 1960s, taking part in the Arte Povera movement as the only woman in this Turin-based neo-avantgarde group. The theme of interiority runs throughout her work, which concerns both the private realm of the home and her own individual subjectivity. Beginning with her earliest sculptures realized with industrial materials that she shaped into organic forms, Merz has pursued a distinctive and singular vision in painting, drawing, and multimedia installation. Heads and female faces are a recurrent motif in Merz’s work and are subjects the artist often depicts in small clay sculptures and paintings that are also intimations of the artist’s inner world. Merz has exhibited in major solo exhibitions at MADRE in Naples, at Stedelijk in Amsterdam, at Kunstmuseum in Winterthur, at Centre Pompidou in Paris, at Villa delle Rose in Bologna. Her work has been included in significant international exhibitions at Tate in London, at Documenta in Kassel, and at the Guggenheim in New York. Following her participation in la Biennale di Venezia in 1998 and 2001, Marisa Merz was awarded, on the occasion of the 49th International Art Exhibition, the Special Prize of the jury “La Biennale di Venezia”.