Venice Biennale’s Lifetime Achievement Awards Go to Nil Yalter, Anna Maria Maiolino

Ahead of its opening in the spring, the 2024 Venice Biennale has awarded its Golden Lions for Lifetime Achievement to Anna Maria Maiolino and Nil Yalter, two artists whose work has seen a surge in international attention in the past few years.

Adriano Pedrosa, curator of the 2024 edition, said in a statement that Maiolino and Yalter were chosen because their careers and oeuvres had to do with his main exhibition, “Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere,” which will focus on artists who have moved between the Global North and the Global South.

Maiolino was born in Italy, was raised in Venezuela, and is now based in Brazil; Yalter was born in Egypt, attended art school in Turkey, and now lives in France. Both octogenarians will appear in Pedrosa’s exhibition, which opens in April.

“This decision is particularly meaningful given the title and framework of my Exhibition, focused as it is on artists who have traveled and migrated between North and South, Europe and beyond, and vice versa,” Pedrosa said.

Though best-known today for large-scale sculptures formed from clay and cement, Maiolino began making conceptual artworks and films during the ’60s and ’70s that count among the most important works produced in Latin America during the era. Her “Mental Maps” series, from the ’70s and resembling diagrams with text attempting to chart relationships between herself and others, are among her most famous pieces. Other works by her are more explicitly critical of the political state of Brazil.

Yalter’s films, installations, and conceptual artworks have tested gender norms and crossed national borders. In ways both provocative and understated, Yalter has shown that identity is flexible and mutable, and often subject to changes depending on where a person is and how they present themselves to the world. Often, her focus has been people whose communities have not always been visible to the mainstream—Turkish immigrants living in France, in one famed work, and an 18th-century French diplomat who remade himself as a woman, for one classic video.

At the Biennale, Maiolino will show a new large-scale work made of clay, and Yalter will debut a new version of her 1974 piece Exile Is a Hard Job, about immigrants living away from their homelands, along with Topak Ev, Yalter’s 1973 installation resembling a traditional Turkish yurt. These presentations will mark the first time that both artists have ever shown at the Biennale.