Toowoomba-born Queensland artist Archie Moore is the toast of the art world after taking out one of the top honours in visual arts globally.

Creative Australia announced that Archie Moore’s exhibition kith and kin at the Australia Pavilion has been awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for Best National Participation at La Biennale de Venezia 2024 (Venice Biennale). This is the first time an Australian artist has received this accolade.

In kith and kin, Moore transforms the Australia Pavilion with an expansive, genealogical chart spanning 65,000 years. kith and kin is curated by Ellie Buttrose, who is a curator at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. The work was commissioned by Creative Australia.

The artwork bridges the personal and the political. While many of the stories in kith and kin are specific to the artist’s family, they mirror narratives throughout the world. Through this lens Moore highlights our shared ancestry and humanity: through the interconnectedness of people, place and time.

Awarding the accolade, the jury of the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia described his work as creating a “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.

“This installation stands 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.”

Moore, 54, who lives on Brisbane’s bayside, beat artists competing from 85 other countries. He says he is grateful for the accolade.

“It makes me feel honoured to be rewarded for the hard work one does,” Moore says. “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.

“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. 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.”

Creative Australia’s executive director First Nations arts and culture Franchesca Cubillo congratulated Moore on “his historic accolade”.

kith and kin is an extraordinary history painting of unprecedented scale,” Cubillo says. “The celestial map of names traces Archie’s Kamilaroi and Bigambul relations over 65,000 years, demonstrating the resilience and strength of the First Nations people of Australia. Through this powerful and compelling artwork Archie asserts Indigenous sovereignty and celebrates the ongoing vitality of First Nations knowledge systems and kinship.”

Curator Ellie Buttrose says the work “enfolds all of us into Archie’s family” while Federal Minister for the Arts Tony Burke says it demonstrates “the power of Australian art and storytelling going right back to the first sunrise”.

“Australian stories help us to understand ourselves, know more about each other and let the world get to know us. That’s exactly what this artwork does.”

Moore’s friend, Brisbane artist Bianca Beetson, now director, First Nations, at the Queensland Museum, studied with him at QUT in Brisbane.

“There were three of us, Aboriginal students in a very white visual arts degree, but we still found ways to express our identity through our work,” Beetson posted on Facebook. “And all I can say is wow … what an amazing expression of your identity and clear articulation of what it means to be connected to the world’s oldest living culture.”

The exhibition continues until November 24 in the Australia Pavilion at La Biennale de Venezia 2024.

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