Jimmie Durham wins this year's Venice Golden Lion

Curator Ralph Rugoff singles out Durham’s 'profoundly humanistic' art for the Biennale's top award
Jimmie Durham, 2014, self portrait
Jimmie Durham, 2014, self portrait

Jimmie Durham staged his first exhibition back in 1965; so long ago that Ralph Rugoff, curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale, joked that the 78-year-old US artist really deserved “two lifetime awards by this point in time.”

Yet longevity isn’t the only reason that Ruguff just put forward this American iconoclast for the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at this year’s biennale. Instead, the curator and Phaidon author singled out Durham’s talent for “making art that is at once critical, humorous and profoundly humanistic.”


Xitle and Spirit, 2007, Dodge Spirit, volcanic stone, acrylic paint,  208 x 445 x 244 cm. © Jimmie Durham
Xitle and Spirit, 2007, Dodge Spirit, volcanic stone, acrylic paint, 208 x 445 x 244 cm. © Jimmie Durham

“For more than 50 years, Durham has continued to find new, ingenious and cogent ways to address the political and social forces that have shaped the world we live in,” Rugoff explains. “At the same time his 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. His work moves and delights us in ways that can never be anticipated.”


Jimmie Durham

Durham himself will pick up the award on May 11, when the Biennale opens to the public. Want to know why he got the Golden Lion? Our Jimmie Durham book is widely acknowleged as the most authoritative monograph on the artist and will tell you all you need to know.

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