Venice Biennale triumph – the first Lithuanian Golden Lion

Saulė ir jūra (Marina) at the Venice Biennale, photo Andrej Vasilenko
Saulė ir jūra (Marina) at the Venice Biennale, photo Andrej Vasilenko

The main prize of the 58th Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious modern art events, went to Lithuania. The Golden Lion, held to be a symbol of Venice, has been awarded for artists Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė‘s opera-performance Saulė ir Jūra (Marina, Sun and Sea).

Venice Biennale commission awarded Lithuania for its pavilion’s experimental spirit, unexpected attitude to presenting the country and creative application of space for Brechtian opera, also for ingenious interaction with the city of Venice and its inhabitants. Saulė ir Jūra (Marina, Sun and Sea) is a critique of leisure and the modern lifestyle, sung by performers and volunteers embodying regular people wrote lzinios.lt

This is another great news for the Lithuanian art because just a few weeks ago Lithuanian opera singer Asmik Grigorian won the main prize at the International Opera Awards at the Salzburg Festival.

First in Lithuania’s history

It is the first time our country has been awarded with such a high level award. This is Lithuania’s 11th appearance at the longstanding arts event and the country has received special mentions four times already. According to this year’s pavilion head Dr. Rasa Antanavičiūtė, it is a significant historic achievement in Lithuanian arts history.

Vaiva Grainytė, one of the winners of the Golden Lion at the Vilnius Airport. Photo courtesy of Saulius Žiūra
Vaiva Grainytė, one of the winners of the Golden Lion at the Vilnius Airport. Photo courtesy of Saulius Žiūra

“It is amazing that a message from a small country can be understood by and relevant to such a wide audience. It was hard to even dream of such an award. We could reach this result despite our limited resources only thanks to our especially dedicated team: creators, singers, technicians, lighting specialists, volunteers and even dogs, who became part of the performance,” R. Antanavičiūtė says.

It is a major recognition of Lithuanian modern art

“It is a major recognition of Lithuanian modern art. The critics and viewers’ fascination testifies that the opera Saulė ir Jūra leaves no one unmoved. I wish to thank the artists and organisers, who have brought the name of Lithuanian culture into European and world culture discussions today,” Minister of Culture Mindaugas Kvietkauskas said during the awards ceremony.

Later he told LRT by phone from Venice that this award is exceptional. “Lithuania was the first to be recognised, its art was recognised from among the Baltic States, our whole region. Truly very few post-soviet states have received such global recognition. Especially when it was obtained by the young generation, the generation of independent artists, united and having discovered such an original idea, which enchanted the international jury and arts critics. Not due to some political circumstance, not due to some sort of influence, but simply because it is such an excellent creation,” the minister said.

Brings up the climate change theme

The award winning Saulė ir Jūra (Marina) at the Venice Biennale easily and catchily speaks of climate change and universal exhaustion. According to the London Serpentine gallery Live Programmes and General Ecology project curator Lucia Pietroiusti, who is curating the Lithuanian pavilion, it is important to find new ways to speak about climate change.

“We have to fundamentally change our thinking as people and as a species among other species. The best art, music and poetry always brought change, had a magical influence. This power of art is exciting,” the curator celebrated the pavilion’s success.

The pavilion, based in a military navy territory, takes you to a sunny beach, where more than 20 performers lie on the sand and sing. “What was most important in accomplishing this project was friendship and caring for one another. By radiating closeness and love, we return our debt to the planet, whose resources we recklessly exploit. It is amazing to experience that such an award went to a piece talking about the fragility of the bodies of man and earth, while also being fragile,” the piece’s authors R. Barzdžiukaitė, V. Grainytė and L. Lapelytė say.

Saulė ir Jūra (Marina, Sun and Sea) will come to Vilnius

Vaiva Grainytė, one of the winners of the Venice Biennale Golden Lion prize in the International Art Exhibition “La Biennale di Venezia”, who returned to Vilnius tonight, was welcomed by Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius and Vilnius City Council members at Vilnius Airport, where she was given a gift worth EUR 50,000 from Vilnius city dwellers.

Vaiva Grainytė, one of the winners of the Golden Lion the the Mayor Šimašius at the Vilnius Airport. Photo courtesy of Saulius Žiūra
Vaiva Grainytė, one of the winners of the Golden Lion the the Mayor Šimašius at the Vilnius Airport. Photo courtesy of Saulius Žiūra

It has been agreed that this piece of art, which has already been exposed in Vilnius, will be demonstrated to Vilnius city dwellers once again this or next year.

“It is a remarkable, unexpected but long-awaited achievement both for Lithuania and for Vilnius. We are proud of this accomplishment and feel inspired. We hope that this symbolic gift from Vilnius will inspire the authors of the performance to continue experimenting, searching for ideas, and creating new works which will promote Vilnius and Lithuania in the world. Unique and surprising pieces of art are born in the wonderful planet of Vilnius; they have to be shown to Vilnius residents and to the world,” Vilnius City Mayor said.

The exact date and location in which this performance will be shown will become clear after the demonstration of the performance finishes in Venice at the end of November

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