Artist Angelica Mesiti and curator Juliana Engberg will represent Australia at the 2019 Venice Biennale, the Australia Council announced today. Angelica Mesiti, who works across video, performance and installation, works between Paris and Sydney and currently has exhibitions in Denmark, the Adelaide Biennial and the National Gallery of Australia. Her Rapture (silent anthem) was the first video to win the Blake Prize in 2009 and in 2013 she was the inaugural recipient of the Ian Potter Moving Image Commission.

“It’s such a huge honour that I’m very grateful to accept,” said Mesiti. “I’d like to say a big thank you to the selection panel for their faith in my practice and recognition of my work.”

Angelica Mesiti, Venice BiennaleAngelica Mesiti. Photo © Josh Raymond

“I’m excited to be working with the brilliant Juliana Engberg as curator; someone whose intelligence and integrity I admire. With her depth of experience, humour and passion I feel assured of a wonderful partnership,” she said. “I’m looking forward to an amazing year ahead developing the project with my valued team of collaborators and the Australia Council Venice Project team to present an artwork which will challenge and engage the many audiences of the Biennale.”

Mesiti’s exhibition at the Venice Biennale will be curated by Juliana Engberg, who is currently the Programme Director of the European Capital of Culture Aarhus 2017 in Denmark. She has been  Artistic Director of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art as well as the 2014 Biennale of Sydney, the 1999 Melbourne International Biennial and the  1998 Adelaide Biennial. She was curatorial advisor for the Australian presentations at the Venice Biennale 2007 and with curator, Charlotte Day, presented the ACCA Venice Pop-Up Projects at the Venice Biennale in 2011

Juliana Engberg, Venice BiennaleJuliana Engberg. Photo © Kay Campbell

“Angelica Mesiti has proposed a powerful project that reflects the complexity of contemporary Australian society through its legislation and through those actions that challenge, revise and reinterpret those laws,” said Engberg.

Artists who have previously represented Australia at the Venice Biennale include Tracey Moffat, Fiona Hall, Patricia Piccinini, Arthur Boyd and Imants Tillers.

The announcement comes following controversy over the changes to the selection process for the Venice Biennale last year. Previously a small number of artists were invited to submit proposals, and an independent commissioner – an art expert or patron – would select the artist. This year, however, the Australia Council extended an open call to artists and curators, before the artistic team was selected by an independent Venice Selection Panel, made up of national and international members with expertise across the visual arts. “This rigorous peer assessment process responded to published criteria, which included concept, professional achievement, viability and impact,” the Australia Council says on its website. Arts philanthropist Simon Mordant and The Balnaves Foundation pulled their financial support after the changes came to light last year.

“The new open process for artist selection produced more than 70 expressions of interest with many ambitious and exceptional proposals. The Australia Council is grateful to the Artistic Selection Panel for undertaking this difficult task and acknowledges the impressive calibre of the shortlisted proposals,” said Sam Walsh AO Venice Commissioning Panel Chair and Australia Council Board member.

“The panel would also like to congratulate all the shortlisted teams for their highly developed and considered submissions,” said Professor Callum Morton from Monash University, who chaired the panel of arts professionals charged with selecting the artistic team. “The distinctive range of voices and approaches in these proposals underscores the great diversity of contemporary practice that is present in Australian visual arts culture.”