British-Ghanaian artist and filmmaker Sir John Akomfrah to represent Great Britain at the 60th Venice Biennale in 2024.

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The British Council has revealed that Ghana-born artist, writer, film director, screenwriter, theorist, and curator John Akomfrah RA will represent Great Britain at the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia in 2024.

Akomfrah (b. 1957)  received a knighthood in the 2023 New Year UK Honours list for contributions to the arts that stretch back four decades. He is mostly known for his visually experimental, richly layered films that often reference colonial history, diaspora communities, and environmental concerns.

He came to prominence in the early 1980s after co-founding the Black Audio Film Collective, a group of seven artists in London. Their first film essay, Handsworth Songs (1986), challenged mainstream coverage of the 1985 riots in Birmingham and London. Handsworth Songs went on to win the Grierson Award for Best Documentary in 1987.

Akomfrah was chosen for Venice by a seven-member judging panel.

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 art scene. John’s inspiring style and narrative have continuously evolved, revealing key ideas and questions about the world we inhabit. The quality and contextual depth of his artistry never fail to inspire deep reflection and awe. For the British Council to have such a significant British-Ghanaian artist in Venice is an exhilarating moment.” 

Akomfrah said in a statement after accepting the commission: “It is a huge privilege and an honor 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,” he said.

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John AkomfrahThe Airport, 2016, three-channel HD color video installation, with 7.1 sound, 53 minutes, installation view.

The artist previously participated in 2019’s Venice Biennale with his piece Four Nocturnes – which was commissioned for the inaugural Ghana pavilion and reflected the complex, intertwined relationship between humanity’s destruction of the natural world and the destruction of the self.

John Akomfrah’s British Council Commission for the British Pavilion at the Biennale Arte Venice will run from 20 April – 24 November 2024.

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