Indigenous Artist Archie Moore Just Became the First Australian to Win the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale

The First Nations talent's winning exhibition 'kith and kin' is a hand-drawn genealogical chart that spans back 65,000 years.
Sarah Ward
Published on April 22, 2024

It's frequently referred to as the Olympics of the art world — and at 2024's edition, Australia has won gold. The event: La Biennale de Venezia, aka the Venice Biennale. The award: the coveted Golden Lion for Best National Participation. And the winning artist: Indigenous talent Archie Moore.

The First Nations artist's exhibition kith and kin received the top gong, both chronicling history and making it. The work is a hand-drawn genealogical chart that spans back 65,000 years. The win gives Australia its first ever at the Venice Biennale.

Both a personal and a political piece, kith and kin works through Moore's Kamilaroi, Bigambul, British and Scottish heritage across the installation's five-metre-high, 60-metre-long black walls. More than 2400 generations are covered. On display at the Australia Pavilion, the exhibition uses chalk on blackboard, with a reflective pool sitting in the middle of the room and 500-plus document stacks suspended above it.

Every aspect of kith and kin makes a statement. With its size and scale, it speaks to Australia's Indigenous peoples being among the world's longest-continuous living cultures. The use of black is also designed to look like a celestial map, and therefore nod to the resting place of First Nations ancestors. Highlighting the decrease in Indigenous Australian languages and dialects since colonisation, the fragility that stems from not being able to pass down knowledge and injustices such as deaths in custody are all also part of the work — with the aforementioned piles of paper primarily from coronial inquests.

"The phrase 'kith and kin' now simply means 'friends and family'. However, an earlier Old English definition that dates from the 1300s shows kith originally had the added meanings of 'countrymen' and also 'one's native land', with kin meaning 'family members'," notes Moore's explanation of the work.

"Many Indigenous Australians, especially those who grew up on Country, know the land and other living things as part of their kinship systems — the land itself can be a mentor, teacher, parent to a child. The sense of belonging involves everyone and everything, and for First Nations peoples of Australia, like most Indigenous cultures, is deeply rooted in our sacred landscapes from birth until death."

"I was interested in the phrase as it aptly describes the artwork in the pavilion, but I was also interested in the Old English meaning of the words, as it feels more like a First Nations understanding of attachment to place, people and time."

kith and kin was  curated by Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art's Ellie Buttrose, and also has a date with the Brisbane gallery as part of its 2025–26 program after its Venice run. In Italy, the work is on display until Sunday, November 24, 2024.

"In this 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," said the jury of the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia about Moore's exhibition.

"The official documents drawn up by the State float in a moat of water. The result of Moore's intensive research, these documents reflect the high rates of incarceration of First Nations people."

"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."

"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," said Moore about his win.

"I am very grateful for this accolade; it makes me feel honoured to be rewarded for the hard work one does. 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."

kith and kin is on display at the Australia Pavilion, Giardini di Castello, 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, until Sunday, November 24, 2024 — head to the exhibition website for further details.

Images: Archie Moore / kith and kin 2024 / Australia Pavilion at Venice Biennale 2024 / Photographer Andrea Rossetti / © the artist / Images courtesy of the artist and The Commercial.

Published on April 22, 2024 by Sarah Ward
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x