Villa Romana 2018

Jeewi Lee, Christophe Ndabananiye, Lerato Shadi, Viron Erol Vert

Participating artists: Jeewi Lee, Lerato Shadi, Viron Erol Vert and Christophe Ndabananiye

The Kunstverein in Hamburg is pleased to present the Villa Romana Prize winners to a wide audience in summer in the exhibition series #THINKINGTOGETHER. The Villa Romana Prize is Germany’s oldest art prize and has been awarded to four artists every year since 1905. Prize winners include Max Beckmann, Käthe Kollwitz, Georg Baselitz, Anna Oppermann, Michael Buthe, and many more artists who have left a mark on the history of modern art. The Villa Romana continues to be one of the few residencies that participates in many regional co-operative programs and closely combines its residency program with a curatorial program. Artists Jeewi Lee, Christophe Ndabananiye, Lerato Shadi, and Viron Erol Vert were the 2018 Villa Romana Prize winners, selected by artist Nasan Tur and Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, director of SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin.


Jeewi Lee (*1987, Seoul, South Korea, lives and works in Berlin) studied painting at the Universität der Künste, Berlin, and at Hunter College University, New York. In her primarily site-specific installations, actions, and image series, she works with metaphorical and real physical traces that she retraces and conserves, employing them as graphic elements. The traces are evidence of movements and histories, simultaneously reflecting the process of their production. Lee is particularly interested in indexical, which carries traces that embody past and present simultaneously.

Christophe Ndabananiye (*1977 in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, lives and works in Berlin) studied at the Hochschule der Bildende Künste in Saarbrücken. Work with memory is a central aspect of Ndabananiye’s work, starting from his own biography. In a series of self-portraits, themes of traumatic experiences related to escape, loss of homeland, and destruction are addressed. In his new paintings, he continues his examination of memories and experiences on paper, canvases, and styrofoam panels.

Lerato Shadi (*1979 in Mahlkeng, South Africa, lives and works in Berlin) studied art at the University of Johannesburg and at the Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee. Lerato Shadi’s work questions established assumptions in order to critique western perceptions of history and make the invisible or overlooked visible. Her artistic practice is focused on body politics and makes explicit reference to the body and its experiences. It addresses institutional violence, patriarchal and colonial strategies of exclusion and oblivion, and resistance through subjective narratives. Shadi works in different mediums with drawing, performance, film, and installation.

Viron Erol Vert (*1975 in Varel, Germany, lives and works in Istanbul and Berlin) studied at the Universität der Künste Berlin and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, followed by further academic studies in the fields of fashion and textile design. In his objects and installations, Vert deals with intercultural exchanges and questions of cultural supremacy. He often connects narratives of Mediterranean and northern European history. Vert’s work is interdisciplinary and questions one-dimensional identity politics as well as the imaginary borders between the so-called foreign and the familiar.

With the #THINKINGTOGETHER project, since the prizes have been given to individual and very exciting artistic personalities and not to a group who found itself together with a thematic purpose, we have decided on the principle of a consecutive exhibition series. We are interested in individual perspectives, individual work, that opens a discourse and triggers processes in all involved. A prize offers free space, allows risks being taken and further developed. This particularity, which develops respective freedom in the artistic position, is worth exhibiting in a curatorial format that does not produce a competitive comparison, but reflects a work’s specifics.

With the title of the exhibition series, #THINKINGTOGETHER, taken from the Villa Romana catalogue, we are taking the critical dialogue, cooperation, and exchanges between the artists, Villa Romana team, and their public in Florence as our starting point in considering artistic production. Each exhibition is the realization in itself of a possibility – ambiguity, permeability, and mobility play a big role here, as much on the side of institutions as on the side of the artists. What emerges is an experimental test stage that through the specifics projects allows the following questions to appear: Which forms of commerce do particular works, formats, and exhibition situations demand and yield from artists, curators, and recipients? What can kind of exchange is there today and what kind of exchange is even possible? What are current artist practices and how can a lively discourse arise around them? 


To further the themes and questions of their artist production, the prize winners will invite guests from various fields to partake in lectures, talks, and other contributions during the exhibition. A multifaceted dialogue will unfold over three months – look forward to it!