The Golden Lions are for the visual arts what the oscars are for the movies. Yoko Ono received a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the 53rd Venice Biennale.
She really earned it!
Ex-Beatle John Lennon said in the 1970s about his wife: 'Yoko is the world's most famous unknown artist!' Nearly everybody knows her name and the fact, that she was married to Mr. Lennon - but not many know her work in detail.
Yoko Ono was born into a wealthy Japanese family with an aristocratic and International banking background. She grew up in Japan and the United States. As her father had a passion for music, she enjoyed also a classical singing education. (So, let us get rid of the myth that she was just singing along to Lennon's music...)
She finally freed herself from leading a traditional Japanese wealthy establishment life in 1955 by dropping out of her college in Bronxville and moving to the Japanese experimental musician Ichiyanagi Toshi to Manhattan, NYC. He introduced her to the group of artists around minimal musician John Cage.
Feminism is an important element in the art of Yoko Ono: In her famous performance 'Cut Piece' of 1966 she sat dressed in beautiful clothing on a stage without moving. Then she invited the audience to cut pieces of cloth from her clothes until she was naked. She sat there without moving in the traditional Japanese way of sitting. (She did this performance a number of times in different places and the audience always acted the same way.)
Zen philosophy is also an essential part of her art: I especially like her series started in the early 1960 called 'Paintings to be Constructed in Your Head'. The title already indicates that there is no actual work of art necessary anymore. It is more about the idea, or the concept. At that time, this was very revolutionary. You can see a selection of these works now in the 53rd Venice Biennial.
In 1966, she met Lennon at her exhibition at the avant-garde Gallery Indica in London. They married in 1969. In 1980, John Lennon was murdered in front of their home, the Dakota building, NYC.
In 1971, she had her first larger museum show at the Everson Museum. It has to be noted that it lasted until 1989(!) until she had her first museum retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Many curators then (re)discovered her part in the minimal and conceptual art movement.
Since then she regularly contributes to International exhibitions and biennials.
I admire her work, as it is not just rational minimalism - it is also very poetic!
(And she was always more than just the wife of John Lennon.)