REYKJAVIK.- The Spanish-Icelandic artist duo Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson have been chosen to exhibit on Icelands behalf at the 54th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 2011. Their work is characterized by their at once attentive and critical, analytical and emotional gaze and their interest in identifying the many questions that the present raises. The trans-cultural tendency in todays world and the complex relationships that spring from it is one of the artists main concerns.
Castro, born 1969 in Madrid, and Ólafsson, born 1973 in Reykjavík based in Rotterdam and Berlin and aptly referred to as citizens of the world met in the Netherlands in 1997 and have been collaborating since. From the outset, their work caught attention in the Netherlands and in Iceland, and soon internationally, earning them in 2009 the third prize of the prestigious Dutch art award Prix de Rome, for their video Lobbyists. Building up a strong body of work using a variety of media, they have developed a conceptual approach with a sense of play, transgression, and inventiveness, often based on intense research into a given subject area.
Castro and Ólafsson tend to work in situ, focusing on finding the stories and the social situations they present in the area where they are to exhibit. They collaborate with CEOs and ministers, as well as with the homeless, with activists, lobbyists or fortune tellers and their moving perspective takes them to places such as the streets of Istanbul, the EU offices and the catacombs of Naples. They use white cube museum and gallery spaces, as well as radio, newspapers, TV or the public space as platforms for their works to bridge and infiltrate different contexts, refocusing the social and political sphere.
With Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson, the Icelandic pavilion in Venice in 2011 will feature an artist duo that has built an impressive roster of international exhibitions and an engaging individual practice that stands out in todays art world, says Christian Schoen, director of the Center for Icelandic Art and Icelandic commissioner for the Biennale 2007 and 2009. I am extremely excited to follow their trans-cultural approach towards an Icelandic presentation at the Venice Biennale 2011. They are worthy representatives of the contemporary art scene in Iceland, cutting-edge contemporary artists with a significant socio-critical approach.
The choice of an Icelandic artist for the Biennale is in the hands of a committee that this time included Christian Schoen, Director of the Center for Icelandic Art, Halldór Björn Runólfsson, Director of the National Gallery of Iceland, and the artist Rúrí, who herself exhibited in Venice on Icelands behalf in 2003. Two further consultants were brought in to assist in the deliberations: Gunnar J. Arnarson, art critic and lecturer at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, and Birta Guðjónsdóttir, artist, curator and Chairman of The Living Art Museum. The project is overseen by the Center for Icelandic Art, which in turn is funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.