In Pictures: See Inside Sonia Boyce’s Golden Lion-Winning U.K. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Boyce accepted the top prize for her audio collage celebrating the collaborative excellence of five Black female musicians.

Artist Sonia Boyce standing in room 5 at the British Pavilion, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.
Artist Sonia Boyce standing in room 5 at the British Pavilion, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

The jurors of the 59th Venice Biennale awarded their highest honor to U.K. artist Sonia Boyce on Saturday morning.

Boyce accepted the Golden Lion for best national pavilion for her arresting exhibition “Feeling Her Way,” which fuses video, collage, music, and sculpture. The installation celebrates the collaborative dynamism of five Black female musicians (Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth, Sofia Jernberg, Tanita Tikaram, and composer Errollyn Wallen) who Boyce invited to improvise together in the same studio where the Beatles recorded “Abbey Road.” The exhibition presents intimate color-tinted videos of the performers set among the artist’s signature tessellating wallpapers and golden geometric sculptures.

The Biennale’s five-person jury commended Boyce for raising “important questions of rehearsal” as opposed to perfectly tuned music, as well as for creating “relations between voices in the form of a choir in the distance.”

This Biennale marks Boyce’s second time showing in Venice, and during an emotional acceptance speech, she paid tribute to the late curator Okwui Enwezor, who recognized her work in the central exhibition he organized in 2015.

Significantly, Boyce is the first Black woman to represent the U.K. Ahead of the opening, the artist—a key member of the British Black art movement in the 1980s—told Artnet News that she was still untangling what it meant to represent her country in this context.

“Kobena Mercer wrote a great essay in 1994 called Black Art and the Burden of Representation, about how there is a responsibility placed on the shoulders of Black artists to be representatives, for them to carry the weight of all Black artists, all Black people, without any consensus,” she said. “For me, what that becomes is that it doesn’t matter what I make, somehow; because I’m there as a fragment of ‘all of them.'”

After the ceremony, Boyce told Artnet News that her collaborators’ performances were born out of a simple question: “As a woman, as a Black person, what does freedom feel like? How can you imagine freedom?”

“Sonia Boyce: Feeling Her Way” is on view at the British Pavilion in the Giardini of the 59th International Art Exhibition—La Biennale di Venezia, through November 27, 2022. See images of the award-winning installation below.

Room 6 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Tanita Tirkaram, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 6 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Tanita Tirkaram, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 6 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Tanita Tikaram, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 6 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Tanita Tikaram, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 4 in the British Pavilion featuring the Devotional Collection, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 4 in the British Pavilion featuring the Devotional Collection, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 3 in the British Pavilion featuring performers Jacqui Dankworth and Sofia Jernberg, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 3 in the British Pavilion featuring performers Jacqui Dankworth and Sofia Jernberg, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 1 in the British Pavilion featuring four performers - Errollyn Wallen, Tanita Tikaram, Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 1 in the British Pavilion featuring four performers – Errollyn Wallen, Tanita Tikaram, Poppy Ajudha, Jacqui Dankworth, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 2 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Jacqui Dankworth, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 2 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Jacqui Dankworth, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 1 in the British Pavilion featuring performers Jacqui Dankworth and Sofia Jernberg, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 1 in the British Pavilion featuring performers Jacqui Dankworth and Sofia Jernberg, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 3 in the British Pavilion featuring performers Jacqui Dankworth and Sofia Jernberg, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 3 in the British Pavilion featuring performers Jacqui Dankworth and Sofia Jernberg, 2022. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 5 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Poppy Ajudha. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.

Room 5 in the British Pavilion featuring performer Poppy Ajudha. Image by Cristiano Corte © British Council.


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