Paradise Lost: First Roma Pavilion at Venice Biennale

Paradise Lost: First Roma Pavilion

Biennale di Venezia 2007

“When we gaze into the embers of a fire, we can see endless stories in the flickering interplay of glow and shadow and ash. In Damian’s images there is the same depth of narrative, yet the stories are not creatures of our own imagination, but paths through the labyrinths of his intersecting universes, real adventures that will not fade like a dying fire but capture forever confrontations of people, ideas and culture.”

The Room of Maps by Damian Le Bas

Paradise Lost: First Roma Pavilion at Biennale di Venezia 2007

“The Roma are probably the only thing Europe has that is truly European. The English Romani faction, including Damian and Delaine Le Bas and Daniel Baker,  are clearly an informed bunch each using this position to their advantage... The palazzo’s fabric laden rooms hammered home the delicate balance between craft and the visually hermetic vocabulary specific to the Roma. Yet altogether it is probably the most sincere survey of art from a community that properly questions our ideas of what a nation, nationhood or national representation actually is or could be.”

– Aaron Moulton, Flash Art, July 2007

First Roma Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale

Venice - The first Roma Pavilion will open at the 52nd Venice Biennale on June 7, 2007.  The Pavilion, located on the piano nobile of the 16th-century Palazzo Pisani Santa Marina, Calle delle Erbe, in the Canareggio district, will feature the premiere of “Paradise Lost,” an exhibition featuring the work of sixteen contemporary Roma artists representing eight European countries. At 6:00 p.m., following the grand opening festivities, there will be a panel discussion involving European cultural and political leaders, including Roma artists and commentators.  They will address some of the fundamental questions and controversy inherent in this first Biennale Pavilion created along ethnic lines: Is a separate Roma Pavilion necessary?  Is there such a thing as “Roma art”?  Does creating a separate space for Roma artists help or hinder social inclusion?

World renowned film director Wim Wenders sees the Pavilion as an opportunity “to correct our image of the largest minority in Europe, which is still shaped by Gypsy romance and Gypsy kitsch.”  For centuries, Roma people have been romanticized by non-Roma artists, who have conjured up images of barefoot dancers happily banging on tambourines.  Damian LeBas "Needy Coves"At the same time, works created by Roma artists have been relegated to the level of kitsch by mainstream European arbiters of culture.  The ultimate goal of ‘Paradise Lost’ is to destroy the exotic stereotype of the “Gypsies” that has been prevalent in Europe since the 19th century and to put Roma artists on an equal footing in the international art world.

 According to Tímea Junghaus, curator of the exhibition, “It is our belief that the identity of the Roma serves as a model for a modern, European transnational identity that is capable of cultural fusion and adaptation to changing circumstances.  This is how the invited artists represent themselves, and this is how they experience their Gypsy identity.”

The Roma Pavilion, alongside the Biennale's national pavilions, marks the arrival of Roma contemporary culture on the international stage and sends an important message: Roma have a vital role to play in the cultural and political landscape of Europe.

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Paradise Lost Catalogue



The catalogue is the result of an initiative undertaken by the Open Society Institute’s Arts and Culture Network Program to find untapped talent and identify Roma artists who are generally unknown to the European art scene.... to help Roma participate in cultural life and to attain recognition for Roma art.

Tímea Junghaus

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The Estate of Damian Le Bas
Delaine Le Bas