ITALY: La Biennale di Venezia

Exhibition: Rothko in Lampedusa in collaboration with UNHCR.

Location: Palazzo Querini, Dorsoduro 2691, 30123 Venice

Opening hours: May 11th to November 24th, 10:00 – 18:00 (closed Monday) 

Curators: Francesca Giubilei + Luca Berta

Artists: Adel Abdessemed, Majid Adin, Christian Boltanski, Rasha Deeb, Mohamed Keita, Dihn Q. Lê, Nalini Malani, Abu Bakarr Mansaray, Richard Mosse, Bnar Sardar Sdiq, Ali WakWak, Ai Weiwei, Hassan Yare and Artur Żmijewski.

In 1913, ten-year-old Mark Rothko emigrated from the Russian Empire (now Latvia) to the United States. His father died soon after their arrival in the US, giving Mark and his siblings no other choice than to start working at a young age to contribute to their mother’s meagre income. Despite a tough start, Mark was further on able to develop his artistic talent and ambition in his new home country and would become one of the most influential painters of the 20th century.

Imagine if Rothko had not been given the chance of a new life in safety and the world would have been deprived of his transcendental abstract paintings which have moved millions of people? And – what if among the refugees arriving in Lampedusa today there is a Rothko of the 21st century?

“Rothko in Lampedusa” is an independent exhibition during the 58th Venice Biennale, presented and produced in collaboration with UNHCR. It reflects on the inherent and individual value of refugees, and through the works of internationally acclaimed artists and six emerging artists who are also refugees, the exhibition aims to remind the world that – just like the rest of us – refugees are individuals with creative ambitions and a strong will and ability to contribute. 

The exhibition also features a Better Shelter unit to let visitors see what home looks like for many refugees today.

An artwork by Ai Weiwei is documented during the opening of the exhibition, organised by UNHCR at the Venice Biennale. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell
Artists (L-R) Majid Adin, 40, from Iran, Bnar Sardar Sidiq, 35, from Iraq, Mohamed Keita, 25, from Ivory Coast, and Rasha Deeb, 30, from Syria, take part in a workshop organised by UNHCR at the Venice Biennale, in Venice, Italy. The concept of the workshop was for the four artists to collaborate on a single piece of work on the theme of unity that showcased their individual talents. The four artists are in Venice as part of a one-month art residency organised by UNHCR. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell