On the world stage: Hany Armanious - Art Collector

Issue 55, January - March 2011

This profile appeared in the "On the world stage" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2011"

In 1993 Hany Armanious was selected by curator Achille Bonito Oliva to exhibit at the Venice Biennale as part of the prestigious Aperto section. It was a singular honour for the young artist. Armanious, who at the time had been experimenting with painting and sculpture, was creating highly original work and it attracted the attention of Oliva after Armanious’s sculpture had been included in the 1991 Australian Perspecta and the 1992 Biennale of Sydney.

In the 17 years since Armanious’s debut at Venice he has produced a highly respected and influential body of work that has been exhibited around the world. When in February 2010 it was announced that Armanious had been chosen to represent Australia at the 2011 Venice Biennale the decision was widely seen as an acknowledgement of the Armanious’s importance within the Australian and international art world.

The opportunity to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale is one of the most prestigious appointments of any artist’s career. It can also be a highly stressful experience. When I spoke with Armanious over the phone in late November, he was driving around Sydney arranging the final production of his work. “The work is getting close to completion,” says Armanious. “I’m overseas for 10 days and when I get back Anne Ellegood, a curator from the Hammer Museum who’s curating the Venice show, will be here to see the work.”

Following on from a sequence of shows with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, Foxy Production in New York and Raucci/Santamaria Gallery in Naples, Armanious says of the Venice exhibition “… it’s a logical step in my work – this could have been my next show at Roslyn’s.” Known for his work with casting and moulds, Armanious has been working with ceramics and resin. What’s it about? I ask, knowing how much he hates being asked that sort of question. He lets out a laugh. “Well, the strong theme of the show is the nose, examining the protuberance in its various guises, from Picasso’s rendering of the nose from his neo-classical works, to the reptilian, shape-shifting forms. In essence, it’s an exploration of the nose and Giacometti’s Nose in particular.”

And what is Armanious planning for the oft-criticised Australian pavilion? “My initial proposal was to address the pavilion, to somehow look at the architecture of the building and create a work that was in dialogue with it,” he says. “But as it turned out it was simply too difficult to do that kind of work from the distance of Australia. My decision was to keep it simple. So essentially it’ll be a show of discreet objects that inhabit the space. We’re going to open up the space of the pavilion, paint it white, open the windows and the skylights so there’ll be lots of natural light. There will be no funny stuff with the pavilion; it’ll be a conventional presentation.”

Andrew Frost

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