The German pavilion took top honors at the 54th Venice Biennale, winning the prestigious Golden Lion for a moving elegy to the life and work of the late film and theatre director Christoph Schlingensief.

The candle-lit church-like installation, A Church of Fear vs. the Alien Within, was completed by Susanne Gaensheimer, director of Frankfurt's Museum für Moderne Kunst, and Aino Laberenz, the artist's widow. Schlingensief died of cancer in August at the age of 49.

Elsewhere, American artist Christian Marclay was awarded the Golden Lion as best artist for his celebrated time-bending video The Clock (2010), which debuted in London in 2010 and has since been acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among other institutions.

UK-based artist Haroon Mirza, whose jarring installation involving intermittent eyeball-blasting jolts of light and darkness, was awarded a Silver Lion as a promising young artist.

Special mentions were awarded to the Lithuanian pavilion for "Behind the White Curtain," by Darius Mikšys, and Swedish artist Klara Lidén whose Untitled (Trashcan) (2011), comprised a room of banged-up garbage cans.

Jury members included Egyptian artist Hassan Khan, Beijing-based curator and writer Carol Yinghua Lu, Museion curator Letizia Ragaglia, Pompidou curator Christine Macel and U.S. artist and filmmaker John Waters.