The artist and filmmaker has been selected for his quality in-depth art films and video installations on colonial legacies and climate issues.
The British Council has announced that artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah RA will represent Great Britain at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2024.
Akomfrah, who was recently honoured with a knighthood in the 2023 UK Honours list, is known for his art films and multi-screen video installations, which explore major issues including racial injustice, colonial legacies, diasporic identities, migration and climate change.
The London-based artist initially came to prominence in the early 1980s as part of the Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC), a group of seven artists founded in 1982. The BAFC’s first film was Handsworth Songs (1986) which explored the events around the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London. In recent years, his multichannel video works have evolved into ambitious, multi-screen installations shown in galleries and museums around the world. In 2017, he won the Artes Mundi prize, the UK’s biggest award for international art. He has previously participated in the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia with his piece Four Nocturnes, commissioned for the inaugural Ghana Pavilion in 2019.
On accepting the British Council commission, John Akomfrah commented:
“It is a huge privilege and an honour to be asked to represent the UK at the 60th Venice Biennale – it is without a doubt one of the most exciting opportunities that an artist can be presented with. I see this invitation as recognition of, and a platform for all those I have collaborated with over the decades, and who continue to make my work possible. I’m grateful to be given a moment to explore the complex history and significance of this institution and the nation it represents, as well as its architectural home in Venice – with all the stories it has told and will continue to.”
Skinder Hundal, Global Director of Arts at the British Council and Commissioner of the British Pavilion, said:
“The British Council is thrilled to announce that John Akomfrah has been commissioned to represent the UK at the Biennale Arte 2024. With a career spanning four decades, the judges felt that Akomfrah had made a very significant contribution to the UK and international contemporary arts scene. John’s inspiring style and narrative has continuously evolved, revealing key ideas and questions about the world we inhabit. The quality and contextual depth of his artistry never fails to inspire deep reflection and awe. For the British Council to have such a significant British-Ghanaian artist in Venice is an exhilarating moment.”
Past British artists have included Golden Lion winner Sonia Boyce, Tracey Emin, Phyllida Barlow and Steve McQueen.
The British Council has been responsible for the British Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia since 1937, showcasing the best of the UK’s artists, architects, designers and curators. These International Exhibitions, and the British Council’s Venice Fellowships initiative introduced in 2016, help make the British Pavilion a major platform for discussion about contemporary art and architecture.
Later this year, the British Council will appoint an Associate Curator to work alongside John Akomfrah and the British Council team to develop the exhibition. This post will be generously supported by Shane Akeroyd and offers mid-career curators a unique professional opportunity to work with a leading British artist on a global platform.
John Akomfrah’s British Council Commission for the British Pavilion at the Biennale Arte Venice will run from 20 April – 24 November 2024.