Jimmie Durham given top Venice Biennale gong

The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award given for incisive take on today’s political climate

Jimme Durham has won the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 58th Venice Biennale Photo: William Nicholson

The Berlin-based, US artist Jimmie Durham has been awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement by the organisers of this year’s Venice Biennale. The accolade was given to the 78-year-old for finding “new, ingenious and cogent ways to address the political and social forces that have shaped the world we live in”, says Ralph Rugoff, the artistic director of the 58thBiennale (11 May-24 November). Durham’s work will be included in the biennale which is entitled May You Live in Interesting Times; the award will be presented in Venice 11 May.

The artist’s sculptures are often accompanied by “texts that drolly but incisively comment on Eurocentric views and prejudices”, Rugoff says, adding: “[Durham’s] contributions to the field of art have been outstanding for their formal and conceptual originality, their agile blending of dissonant parts and alternative perspectives, and their irrepressible playfulness.”

Durham has focused on colonialism and Native American identity in his work, and identifies as a Cherokee indigenous person but in 2017, ten Cherokee artists and curators disputed this claim. He told The New York Times the same year that “I am perfectly willing to be called Cherokee. But I’m not a Cherokee artist or Indian artist, no more than Brancusi was a Romanian artist.”

A survey of Durham’s practice presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2018 included works such as the sculptural installation Tlunh Datsi (1984) and the painted wood piece Choose Any Three (1989).