James Richards Selected To Represent Wales At 57th Venice Biennale

Arts Council of Wales has announced that artist James Richards has been selected to represent Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice at the 57th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale, running from 13 May to 26 November 2017. 26 May 2016 This solo presentation, curated by Chapter – to develop a suite of new work for a large scale, ambitious and original exhibition – will be the artist’s first major commission at an international biennale.

Richards has a strong presence on the contemporary UK art scene with a rapidly growing reputation internationally. Receiving widespread critical acclaim following his Exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery in 2011, his Turner Prize nomination in 2014 and current presence in the British Art Show 8, this opportunity comes at a pivotal moment to consolidate his practice at one of most significant international platforms for the visual arts, the Venice Biennale.

The artist’s 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. To encounter James Richards’s work is to feel it as much as it is to see it!

The commission is an important opportunity for Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre to build on the achievements of its visual arts programme, which has a reputation for innovation, internationalism and excellence. It is significant for Chapter — a place that James sites as extremely influential on his early career — to create a project with the artist both in his hometown of Cardiff and on an international platform in Venice.

James Richards was born and brought up in Cardiff and now lives in Berlin. He studied for foundation at Cardiff School of Art and Design, undertook an internship at Cardiff’s G39 in 2002 and collaborated regularly with Kim Fielding /Tactile Bosch. With the roots of his practice in Cardiff, Richards has an intrinsic understanding of what it means to be a practising artist in Wales and is well set to act as a catalyst to focus attention on Wales.

On being selected for Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice 2017 James Richards commented: “It’s a huge honour and privilege to be representing Wales at the Venice Bienniale 2017. I’m truly surprised and thrilled by the selection and very excited to start working on a new work for this unique event.”

Hannah Firth, Director of Visual Art, Chapter, and curator of Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice 2017 commented: 

“James Richards is one of the most original and exciting artists of his generation and we are absolutely thrilled to be working with him to commission a new body of work for presentation in Venice.” We have built a strong collaborative approach and are working with a range of organisations in Wales to deliver the exhibition including Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the significant artist-run gallery G39 who will deliver an integrated programme of professional development and public engagement in Wales. Audiences in Wales will also have the chance to experience two associated exhibitions of James’s work at Chapter: a group show organised by the artist and featuring works by national and international artists, and then the Wales in Venice exhibition itself as it tours to Cardiff in early 2018.”

Phil George, Chair of Arts Council of Wales said: “Arts Council of Wales is delighted to be presenting James Richards at the Venice Biennale in 2017. James is an exciting and significant Welsh artist who has a growing reputation in Europe and beyond. As such, he is the perfect choice to represent our country at such a prestigious international Biennale. His installation will bring a distinctive and remarkable talent to the attention of galleries and curators worldwide and show the contemporary edge of Welsh creativity to the thousands of visitors to the Biennale.”

Wales’s presence at Venice has been a vital part of the artistic calendar ever since the country first burst onto the International Biennale’s scene in 2003. The Biennale has provided a superb platform for visual art from Wales, strengthening its international profile and reflecting back into Wales through exhibition tours and related initiatives such as the Invigilator Plus programme, educational resources and talks.

Three unique proposals were shortlisted for Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice 2017 from 11 Expressions of Interest received. The Selection Panel made its decision based on the brief and requirements for the project. The Selection Panel was convened by the Commissioner, Arts Council of Wales. The Selection Panel included Advisory Committee members: Adrian George, Deputy Director & Senior Curator, Government Art Collection; Emma Gifford-Mead, Head of Exhibitions, Lisson Gallery, London; Mary Griffiths, Curator of Modern Art, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester; Karen MacKinnon, Director, Artes Mundi; Nick Thornton, Head of Fine & Contemporary Art, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales; Louise Wright, Portfolio Manager Arts Council of Wales and Commissioner; David Alston, Director Arts, Arts Council of Wales. Invited Guest members included: Peter Finnemore, Artist and Fay Blanchard, British Council. The panel was chaired by a Council member of Arts Council of Wales. Cymru yn Fenis Wales in Venice provides a platform to present the most exciting and creative artists associated with Wales. It creates international experiences and connections for galleries, curators and artists that will develop the visuals arts in Wales and celebrates Wales in the World as a dynamic, culturally engaged and forward-looking nation.


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