Francisco Souto Wins the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award at Florence Biennale

Lincoln, Neb.–School of Art, Art History & Design Director Francisco Souto was presented the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award for works on paper at the XIIth edition of the Florence Biennale in October.

Souto was one of 480 artists from 76 countries and four continents represented at the Florence Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition in Florence, Italy, which is regarded as an outstanding showcase of the international contemporary art production.

Every two years the Florence Biennale enlivens the Medicean city with a program of events, including conferences, displays, performances, workshops and lectures. All this with a view to offer artists and their audience the opportunity to engage with art and culture and learn more about the theme of each edition of the biennial.

“It is a big deal and quite the honor,” Souto said. “The participation to the biennale is by invitation only. I received a personal e-mail from the director of the Florence Biennale inviting me to participate. When you show your work internationally, it calls the attention of the experts in the field, and that is very stimulating.”

Souto showed four works at the Biennale, including “Little Bird (Pajarito),” which came from his exhibition titled “Dicotomias” (Dichotomies). He spent a week at the Biennale with support from the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts.

“One of the five international jurors said it was refreshing to see a body of work that required so much attention from the viewer,” he said. “As you pay attention to the piece, the content engulfed you. I was appreciative of that comment. As you know, a lot of contemporary art is pretty loud. I’m not making a judgment call here, but my work is not. Even though the content is pretty strong, the delivery is soft spoken. For me it was really important to compete at that level and get recognized for it, ultimately that’s the power of the work.”

The work continues Souto’s response to the reality affecting his native land of Venezuela. Per his artist statement, Souto writes, “These drawings offer a collective experience of humanity and its perseverance in response to the current lack of empathy that pervades public life. Art should always be considered as a way of thinking through an image and as a testimony of a life lived.” 

Each invited artist shows two to six works at the Biennale.

“There was a lot of work and a lot of art, so it was a major group show,” Souto said.

The work was exhibited in the Spadolini Pavilion at the Fortezza da Basso, a Renaissance masterpiece of military architecture, that has been the main center for exhibitions in Florence since 1967.

“You walk into the gallery and you feel overwhelmed” Souto said. “It’s like a football stadium full of art. There are some really loud pieces, and there are some quiet pieces. They are big and small. There are performances, installations and video pieces—every single art medium is represented. It was a great experience.”

He was surprised to receive the award.

“At the award ceremony, nobody knew who was getting the awards,” Souto said. “The awards were announced by category. The award I received was for works on paper. I was surprised and humbled to be recognized among some many international artists.”

Souto has taught the summer education abroad course, “Florence and Venice: Interdisciplinary Art and Culture” so being in Florence has special meaning to him.

“As you know, we cannot go back to our home country anymore because of its current condition,” Souto said. “I have been to Florence about six or seven times, so every time I go, it feels like going home, in a sense. I know the city; I know the people. It feels homey.”

Souto was born in Venezuela and received his Master of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University. His current drawings are visual testimonies of the social and economic reality that is eroding Venezuela. The fundamental preoccupation is the lack of empathy that pervades public life leading to conditions of increased brutality.

Souto’s work has been exhibited widely around the world, and his accolades include more than 45 national and international awards and honors. 

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