We share five lessons from our time in Venice spent with the CHANEL Next Prize winners
Last week, the Venice Biennale opened its gates as a preview to press, industry folk, and art world giants. Alongside them were the CHANEL Next Prize winners, fresh from the announcement late last year that each would be awarded funding and invaluable access to mentors and networking opportunities courtesy of the French fashion house.
It’s all in tradition with what Gabrielle Chanel herself practised and preached, which was a curiosity to be involved in what happens next – hence the title of the award itself: the CHANEL Next Prize.
The artists were all nominated via an anonymous board of art and culture experts. For the inaugural biannual award, the jurors included artist Cao Fei, architect Sir David Adjaye, and actress Tilda Swinton.
The breadth of disciplines of each winner was rich and impressive. These included filmmakers Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not a Witch), Eduardo Williams, and Wang Bing, as well as dancers and choreographers Marlene Monteiro Freitas and Botis Seva, theatre director Marie Schleef, progressive art collective Keiken, composer Jung Jae-il (who scored Squid Games and Parasite), poet and visual artist Precious Okoyomon, and video game developer Lual Mayen.
CHANEL brought the winners to Venice to meet for the first time in a fitting celebration – joined by Adjaye and Swinton. Dazed was lucky to accompany them on the trip, which included private tours of the Biennale by Hans Ulrich Obrist, exquisite dinners including one in a traditional palazzo, and, most importantly, great conversation, sparking connections likely to last a lifetime. Below, we share five lessons from our time in Venice spent with the CHANEL Next Prize winners.
THERE IS POWER IN NUMBERS
Coming together is undoubtedly the ultimate symbol of defiance in the face of a global pandemic that has kept us apart for so long (and the Biennale on pause for an extra year – its last edition held in 2019). With that spirit, there was a certain power in numbers when the winners came together from disparate parts of the world – 11 countries to be exact – and equally diverse disciplines. While many had never even been to Venice, speaking to theatre director Marie Schleef, she noted that the trip’s highlight was meeting the other winners.
ART CREATES CONVERSATION
Art has the infinite potential to create conversation, no matter how different we think we might be. Who is more apt to facilitate those threads of discussion than the Serpentine’s Director, Han Ulrich Obrist, who personally hosted the winners through a tour of several pavilions, including Britain and America. The winners encountered the mighty works of the UK’s Sonia Boyce OBE and the US’s Simone Leigh – who each won Golden Lions just days later – sparking conversations throughout the group as we walked curiously from pavilion to pavilion in the bustling Giardini.
FOOD FORGES RELATIONSHIPS
Venice knows good food as few others do – better yet, its chefs know how to cook it. Nothing builds rapport quite like breaking bread with one another – literally. So, in a palazzo filled with the scent of floral bouquets and the flickering light of candles, CHANEL hosted a dinner that brought together the art world’s greats – from artist Arthur Jafa and Dazed’s own Jefferson Hack – with the winners.
THE JURORS WERE ‘THE LUCKY ONES’
While each winner was awarded funding, there are some experiences that money can’t buy. One of those is to have your work seen, understood, and spoken about by jurors, which included Chinese artist Cao Fei, Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye, and actress Tilda Swinton – the latter of whom we managed to steal a word with on the final day of the trip.
“It means a lot (to be a juror),” Swinton told us. “To be asked to be a juror it’s a very selfish enterprise for me because it gives me the opportunity to meet these extraordinary people. So, I’m the lucky one.”
THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING
The friendships formed on the trip are brimming with potential as filmmakers Wang Bing and Eduardo Williams, theatre director Marie Schleef, and composer Jung Jae-il took photos of each other on their phones. “They’re all so open to each other and to creating a web,” observed Swinton, as she revealed that one of her “dreams” was for the artists to create “a fellowship between themselves that could support them for the next two years, and forever, hopefully”.
In evident admiration for their drive and openness to new experiences, connections, and conversations, she adds: “They’re all feeling their disciplines between finger and thumb, and trying to find new spaces.”