In a rare acknowledgment on an international stage, one pavilion for the next Venice Biennale will change its name in recognition of the three Indigenous artists selected to show there. The Nordic Pavilion, which represents the countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, will be renamed to the Sámi Pavilion for the exhibition’s 2022 edition. The artists selected to represent the three Scandinavian countries are three Sámi artists: Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara, and Anders Sunna.
In a statement, Katya García-Antón, the director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway and the lead commissioner of the pavilion, said, “The global pandemic, the impact of climate change, and worldwide calls for decolonization are leading us all to focus on alternative possibilities for our future and that of our planet. At this pivotal moment, it is vital to consider Indigenous ways of relating to the environment and to each other.”
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The forthcoming pavilion marks the first time that an all-Sámi group of artists has been selected to represent the region at the Biennale, which was delayed from 2021 to the following year because of the coronavirus pandemic. (The Nordic Pavilion mounted its first exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1962.) It comes as Indigenous art comes to take on greater prominence at the Venice Biennale, which artists and groups have recently helmed countries’ pavilions, including the Isuma collective for Canada, Lisa Reihana (Maori) for New Zealand, Richard Bell (Kamilaroi) for Australia, and others.
To complement the art inside the pavilion, two influential Indigenous figures were brought on to advise the artists. They are Brook Andrew, a Wiradjuri who curated the 2020 Biennale of Sydney, and Wanda Nanibush, a Anishinaabe curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Two of the three artists doing the Sámi Pavilion have appeared in major biennials previously. Sara, whose works are connected to her practice of reindeer-herding, showed at Documenta 14 in 2017 in Kassel, Germany, and Sunna, whose art deals with land rights and the oppression of the Sámi people, appeared in the 2020 edition of the Biennale of Sydney. Feodoroff is a theatre director and artist whose work has focused on land and water rights.