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BMA takes no honors at Venice Biennale

Two U.S. artists won the equivalent of gold and bronze medals Saturday during the awards ceremony for the 2017 Venice Biennale, often described as the "Olympics of the Art World."

But the Baltimore Museum of Art, which presented the U.S. Pavilion and showcased the artwork of Mark Bradford, received no special honors.

The Pennsylvania-born artist Carolee Schneemann received a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for her work focusing on the body, sexuality and gender, according to the jury citation. And New York's Charles Atlas, a pioneer in capturing dance on film, received one of two honorable mentions handed out to participants in "Viva Arte Viva," the international group show that's the Biennale's centerpiece. (The other nod from the jury went to the Kosovo artist Petrit Halilaj.)

The ceremony in a 15th century Gothic palazzo was a cross between the Olympics and the Academy Awards, with multicultural competitors from 86 nations, gold statuettes and pens of paparazzi snapping away from the sidelines.

Biennale President Paolo Baratta announced that Germany had captured the award for the best national pavilion by showcasing artist Anne Imhof's five-hour performance piece, "Faust." Brazil was the runner-up.

Baltimore Museum of Art director Christopher Bedford offered his "hearty congratulations" to Imhof and her collaborators, saying: "I'm really pleased that a socially engaged project like the German pavilion received public recognition."

But he predicted that the hard work and $1 million expense required to mount the U.S. Pavilion will eventually bear fruit. Los Angeles-based Bradford's concept of himself as a citizen artist, Bedford said, will likely become "a model for the future of museums that imagine a civically engaged future."

The award for the best artist in "Viva Arte Viva" went went to another German, Franz Erhard Walther, who was honored for his wearable, interactive fabric sculptures. Hassan Khan, who lives and works in Cairo, picked up the Silver Lion awarded to a promising young artist.

The 57th Biennale runs through Nov. 26.

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