Kin lifts Aussie artist to prestigious Golden Lion

Archie Moore kith and kin. | Newsreel
Artist Archie Moore with his award-winning work kith and kin | Photo: Supplied by Creative Australia

Queensland artist and QUT alumni Archie Moore has won the Golden Lion for best national participation at the 2024 Venice Biennale – the first time an Australian artwork has won the prize.

Considered one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, Moore is a QUT visual arts graduate (1998) and was awarded the QUT Outstanding Alumni Award for Creative Industries in 2018.

The 54-year-old Kamilaroi and Bigambul artist, who was born in Toowoomba and now lives and works in Brisbane, is the first Aboriginal male solo artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

He was presented with the Golden Lion for his monumental hand-drawn installation, kith and kin.

Curated by Ellie Buttrose from QAGOMA, the piece involved the artist mapping a sprawling genealogy in chalk, mapping 65,000 years of Indigenous Australian history and nonlinear concepts of time and place.

Below the vast family tree covering the dark walls and ceiling stands a white table covered in records of First Nations deaths, including those in police and prison custody.

Professor Damian Candusso, head of the QUT School of Creative Practice said the QUT and various arts communities across Brisbane and Australia were ecstatic at the news.

“This is an extraordinary achievement for Archie and represents a previously unheard-of level of recognition for Australian art on the world stage,” Professor Damian Candusso said.

“Venice is the world’s oldest international art biennial and winning the Golden Lion takes Archie into a realm no other Australian artist has ventured.”

Awarding the accolade, the jury of the 60th International Art Exhibition of Venice Biennale said: “In this quiet, impactful pavilion, Archie Moore worked for months to hand-draw in chalk a monumental First Nation family tree. Thus, 65,000 years of history (both recorded and lost) are inscribed on the dark walls and ceiling, inviting viewers to fill in the blanks and grasp the inherent fragility of this mournful archive.”

It noted how official state documents, which were gathered by Moore’s meticulous research and float in a pool of water, “reflect the high rates of incarceration of First Nations people”.

The jury said the installations stood out for its “strong aesthetic, its lyricism and its invocation of a shared loss of an occluded past”.

“With his inventory of thousands of names, Moore also offers a glimmer of the possibility of recovery,” it added.

On accepting the Golden Lion, Mr Moore explained his work further.

“As the water flows through the canals of Venice to the lagoon, then to the Adriatic Sea, it then travels to the oceans and to the rest of the world – enveloping the continent of Australia – connecting us all here on Earth,” he said.

“Aboriginal kinship systems include all living things from the environment in a larger network of relatedness, the land itself can be a mentor or a parent to a child. We are all one and share a responsibility of care to all living things now and into the future.

“I am very grateful for this accolade; it makes me feel honoured to be rewarded for the hard work one does. I am grateful to everyone who has always been part of my journey – from my kith to my kin – to my Creative Australia team and everyone else back home and those of the Venice lagoon.”

The kith and kin installation will be restaged at QAGOMA in Brisbane when the Biennale closes in November.