British Council Announces 2017 Partnerships For 57th Venice Biennale

British Council Announces 2017 Partnerships For 57th Venice Biennale

The British Council has announced their 2017 partnership with Scotland, and Wales in presenting three exhibitions at the 57th International Venice Biennale Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. The Council has commissioned artists for the British Pavilion since 1937, showcasing the best of artistic talent from the UK. Past artists have included Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Riley, Richard Long, Anish Kapoor, Mark Wallinger, Rachel Whiteread, Gilbert & George, Tracey Emin, Steve McQueen, Mike Nelson, Jeremy Deller and most recently Sarah Lucas in 2015. Since 2003, independent exhibitions from the UK nations have taken place in Venice and we are delighted to be working closely with Scotland + Venice and Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice to showcase three of the most interesting contemporary artists from Britain. The collaboration will include the creation of short films featuring the selected artists and their Venice exhibitions.

Phyllida Barlow will present a major solo exhibition of new work in the British Pavilion


Phyllida Barlow will present a major solo exhibition of new work in the British Pavilion. Best known for her colossal sculptural projects, for over five decades Phyllida Barlow has employed a distinctive vocabulary of inexpensive materials such as plywood, cardboard, plaster, cement, fabric and paint to create striking sculptures and bold and expansive installations that confront the relationship between objects and the space that surrounds them. Drawing on memories of familiar objects from her surroundings, Barlow’s practice is grounded in an anti-monumental tradition characterised by her physical experience of handling materials in an expedient and direct way.

The British Council has commissioned artists to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale since 1937 and Barlow’s exhibition will be the 21st solo presentation in the British Pavilion. The British Council’s commission follows Barlow’s acclaimed solo exhibitions including: demo, Kunsthalle Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland (2016); tryst, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, USA (2015); set, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2015); dock, the Duveen Commission at Tate Britain, London, UK (2014).

An illustrated book will be published by Black Dog Publishing to coincide with the opening of the exhibition in Venice including texts by Phyllida Barlow and Emma Dexter.

The Commissioner of the British Pavilion is Emma Dexter, Director Visual Arts, British Council. The exhibition is commissioned by the British Council for the 57th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, 2017. This presentation has been made possible with the generous support of Hauser & Wirth.


Rachel Maclean will present a major new film commission for Scotland + Venice. One of the most significant contemporary artists working in Scotland today, Maclean has had considerable recent success, with solo exhibitions at HOME, Manchester and Tate Britain, London.

Raising critical questions about identity, economy, society, connectivity and morality, Maclean’s work combines traditional modes of theatre with technology and popular culture to create fantasy narratives under the guise of a hyper-saturated candy-coloured aesthetic, possessing a unique and often disturbing vision.

Maclean’s commission will be presented within a new space for Scotland + Venice: the dramatic church, Chiesa di Santa Caterina, Fondamenta Santa Caterina, in Cannaregio. Originally established to uphold the moral authority and political-religious power, this venue now offers a new context for Maclean’s work, cutting across cultural divides to question notions of truth, conscience, and power in the 21st century.

Playing all the characters in the films herself, while working directly on every detail of post-production, Maclean’s creative process involves studio based green-screen techniques, custom prosthetics, costume, and voice actors. With unusual artistic confidence and vigor, her work is intellectually challenging and visually provocative.

This new work, commissioned and curated by Alchemy Film & Arts, celebrates the dynamic creativity emerging within artists’ film and moving image practice in Scotland today. Talbot Rice Gallery, as the project’s creative and academic partner, will host Maclean’s work following the Venice Biennale in early 2018.


James Richards will represent Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice with a solo presentation curated by Chapter. Cardiff-born Richards’ interest lies in the possibility of the personal amidst the chaos of mass media. He combines video, sound and still images to create installations and live events. His work makes use of an ever-growing bank of video material that includes fragments of cinema, works by other artists, stray camcorder footage, murky late night TV and archive research.

Carefully constructed installations involve sculptural, cinematic, acoustic, musical and curatorial considerations to create works of extraordinary intensity. Following a solo exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery in 2011, his Turner prize nomination in 2014 and recent collaborative projects between ICA, London, Bergen Kunsthall and Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover, this opportunity comes at a pivotal moment to consolidate Richards’ practice at one of the most significant international platforms for the visual arts.

Richards’ presentation for Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice 2017 – his first major commission at an international biennale – will consist of a new, site-responsive sound installation and a suite of additional works containing overlapping archival samples and musical extracts repeated or reworked into different forms. He will collaborate with students from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and, through a partnership residency, will explore the archives of the National Sound and Screen Archive in Aberystwyth. As part of the project, the artist will also curate a group show for Chapter in Autumn 2017 after which his solo Venice presentation will be shown in February 2018.

The Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice exhibition will be presented at the Santa Maria Ausiliatrice in Castello, located just off Via Garibaldi, midway between the main Biennale Giardini and Arsenale sites.

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. Our 7,000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes. We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of nearly £700 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%. We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose.

Reported By Paul Carter Robinson Photo: © Artlyst 2017