Archie Moore, Australian Artist, Wins Top Prize at Venice Biennale

Archie Moore, an Indigenous Australian artist who has created an installation including a monumental family tree, won the top prize at the Venice Biennale on Saturday.

Moore, 54, took the Golden Lion, the prize for the best national participation at the Biennale, the world’s oldest and most high-profile international art exhibition. He beat out artists representing 85 other countries to become the first Australian winner.

For his installation, “kith and kin,” Moore has drawn a family tree in chalk on the walls and ceiling of the Australia Pavilion. The web of names encompasses 3,484 people and Moore says it stretches back 65,000 years, although he has smudged some details so that they are hard to read. In the center of the room is a huge table covered with stacks of government documents relating to the deaths of Indigenous Australians in police custody.

Julia Bryan-Wilson, the chair of this year’s Biennale jury and a professor of contemporary art at Columbia University, said during the prize announcement that Moore’s installation was “a mournful archive” that “stands out for its strong aesthetic, its lyricism and its invocation of shared loss for occluded pasts.”

Before Saturday’s ceremony, which was streamed online, Moore’s pavilion had already been a critical hit. Julia Halperin, writing in The New York Times, said that the installation was one no Biennale visitor should miss. Moore’s hand-drawn family tree was so dense at points it was impossible to make out the names. “The implication is clear: expand the aperture wide enough and we are all related,” Halperin said. “It’s a concept that could feel trite if it weren’t rendered with such poetry, rigor and specificity.”

A detail of Moore’s family tree in the pavilion.Credit…Matteo de Mayda for The New York Times
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