Bruce Nauman wins a Golden Lion at Venice Biennale


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Artist Bruce Nauman can now add a lion to his gardens.

The artist’s installation ‘Topological Gardens,’ currently on view at the U.S. Pavilion and other venues at the 53rd annual Venice Biennale, has won the Golden Lion for best national participation. In its award citation, the Biennale stated that Nauman’s work ‘reveals the magic of meaning as it emerges through relentless repetition of language and form.’

This is the first time since 1990 that an American artist has won this award.

‘Nauman is among the critical American artists of the last four decades, one whose work has fundamentally shaped our idea of what art is today,’ Times Art Critic Christopher Knight wrote in 2007.


‘Topological Gardens’ is a multi-part, multi-site installation that provides a four-decade survey of Nauman’s work. The artist, who is perhaps best known for his neon sculptures and playful use of language, worked with the Philadelphia Museum of Art to organize the exhibition, which is being shown at three venues at the Biennale.

The exhibition includes new work by Nauman, including two site-sound installations in two languages -- ‘Days’ and ‘Giorni.’ The bilingual works feature corridors of sound-speakers arranged so that participants can experience the ebb and flow of voices as they recite the days of the week. The audio tracks were recorded by Nauman last year in Venice with the help of students at local universities.

Nauman’s famous ‘Vices and Virtues,’ a large-scale outdoor neon sign created 1983-88, is occupying the outer perimeter of the U.S. Pavilion. Indoors, the artist has installed various works that address the loose themes of ‘Heads and Hands’ and ‘Neons and Fountains.’

Also of note is the exhibition of Nauman’s ‘Untitled 1970/2009,’ which combines recorded performance art from the Tokyo Biennial of 1970 and recent footage that was recorded in Italy.

As the year’s chosen U.S. representative to the Venice Biennale, Nauman, 67, follows in the footsteps of artists like Ed Ruscha, Jenny Holzer, Bill Viola, Jasper Johns and last year’s posthumous honoree, Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

‘Topological Gardens’ is open to public viewing starting tomorrow, Sunday, June 7. The exhibition will continue at the U.S. Pavilion through Nov. 22.


Nauman’s most recent exhibition in Southern California was ‘Elusive Signs: Bruce Nauman Works With Light,’ which was featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 2008.

-- David Ng