Souto invited to participate in Venice Biennale

Francisco Souto, "(Al)lure of the North."
Francisco Souto, "(Al)lure of the North."

Souto invited to participate in Venice Biennale

calendar icon28 Feb 2024    user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen

Francisco Souto. Photo by Laura Cobb.
Francisco Souto. Photo by Laura Cobb.

Lincoln, Neb.--Francisco Souto, Cather Professor of Art and Director of the School of Art, Art History & Design, has been invited to participate in an exhibition at the 2024 Venice Biennale.

The Venice Biennale is an international cultural exhibition hosted in Venice, Italy, by the Biennale Foundation and includes art and architecture exhibitions, as well as music, dance and film festivals.

“Francisco’s selection to participate in the prestigious Venice Biennale is a tremendous achievement for him and a fitting salute to his dedication as an artist,” said Andy Belser, dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. “We could not be prouder of him and are fortunate to have someone with Francisco’s international artistic stature right here at the UNL School of Art, Art History & Design. We are all privileged to work alongside such a brilliant artist and visionary leader.”

The European Cultural Centre’s biennial of contemporary art exhibition “Personal Structures” will be on display April 20-Nov. 24 in Venice, Italy. A wide selection of artworks from internationally renowned and emerging artists, photographers and sculptors will be featured.

“I was surprised,” Souto said of his selection to participate in “Personal Structures.” “I didn’t know how to react. It was kind mixed emotions, but more than anything, it’s such an honor that people are paying attention to the work, and that, to me, is the biggest reward. People refer to the Venice Biennale as the Olympics for art. It’s huge.”

In 2022, the “Personal Structures” exhibition drew more than 575,000 visitors in-person, along with more than 150,000 online viewers. Previous participating artists have included Marina Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Louise Bourgeois, Antony Gormley, Joseph Kusuth, Teresa Margolles and Yoko Ono.

Souto hasn’t talked to the curator yet to find out how he was selected but suspects they might have seen his work in the Florence Bienniale. In 2019, Souto was presented the Lorenzo il Magnifico Award for works on paper at the XIIth edition of the Florence Biennale.

He showed four works at the Florence Biennale but will show 13 pieces this year in Venice.

“I borrowed seven pieces from collectors who bought them at my last show here in Lincoln in October” he said. “And I created six more new drawings. There will be two triptychs that I just developed for the Venice Biennial.”

His last exhibition, “On Beauty and displacement,” was on display at Kiechel Fine Art in Lincoln Oct. 22-Dec. 3. The work in that exhibition continued his response to the reality affecting his native land of Venezuela. It followed his first “Diaspora” exhibition in 2019. “Diaspora” means a dispersion of people from their original homeland.

In the first exhibition, his drawings were visual testimonies of the social, economic and political deteriorating that is eroding Venezuela. The second exhibition took a broader view on the collective experience of struggle and perseverance. His Venice exhibition is titled “On beauty and displacement II.”

In his artist statement, he writes, “The highly detailed, anthropomorphic drawings exist in a deliberate absence of contextual backgrounds. Focused on people and their humanity in times of adverse reality, these drawings articulate a shared vision of humanity through meticulous execution and a distinctive material vocabulary weaving a poignant visual narrative that invites deep reflection.”

Souto said the work in the Venice exhibition will be even sharper and have more intimate detail than any of his previous work.

“My wife and I went to London a couple of months ago, and I was looking at these beautiful miniature paintings in a museum. And I thought, ‘Oh my god, my work is not detailed enough. My work needs a better technique,’” he said. “So the pieces I did for this show have a greater technique, I’m pushing to see how refined they can be and how I can get the best out of myself. I still believe in the beautiful, well-crafted object and is part of the reason the show is called ‘On beauty and displacement.’ There’s something special when you are in the presence of a well-constructed object. There is an intrinsic correlation between the creative process and the intimate act of looking.”

He is grateful for support from the Hixson-Lied College to make this possible, as he dealt with the logistics of shipping, exporting and customs for the work to be transported back and forth between Nebraska and Italy.

“The only way that I’m able to do it is with the support of the college, and I’m more than grateful to the Dean for that. There is no other way,” he said. “This is a big honor not just for me, but for the college and the university as well. As a matter of fact, they will publish a hardbound catalog that is more than 600 pages, and the college and university will have a sponsor logo on it. It’s wonderful.”

He also may have many patrons and other supporters with him when he travels to Venice for the opening in April.

“The love is so great. Again, as an artist, that’s exactly what you’re looking for—you’re looking to have a great connection with your viewers and collectors” he said. “They become part of your inner circle. They’re no longer your collectors, they become part of a larger conversation. And, to me, that level of support means the world to me. My work is getting stronger and stronger because the support is getting stronger and stronger.”

Souto said this is a welcome recognition for the hard work he has put into his artwork for decades.

“When you are working on an exhibition, you work in your studio alone in solitude, and you’re thinking you’re doing the best you can, but you never know until your work is up,” he said. “I’m going to keep pushing for higher ends, that’s my duty as a maker. I want to do the best because the resources are there, the financial and emotional support is there. That’s what allows me to do this level of work.”

For more information on the exhibit, visit