Vilcek Prize 2017 for Fine Arts awards immigrant artists

New York’s Vilcek Foundation awards annual prize to immigrants who have made outstanding contributions to science and the arts and humanities.

The 2017 edition of the Vilcek Prize for Fine Arts goes to Jamaican-born artist Nari Ward, while the Prize for Creative Promises awards three young immigrant artists based in the United States.

Winners of the 2017 Vilcek Prize and Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Fine Arts. Image courtesy The Vilcek Foundation.

Winners of the 2017 Vilcek Prize and Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Fine Arts. Image courtesy The Vilcek Foundation.

The Vilcek Foundation recently announced the winners of its annual Vilcek Prize, which awards immigrants living and working in the United States who have made outstanding and long lasting contributions in the fields of biomedical science and the arts and humanities.

The Vilcek Foundation was founded in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. The Foundation’s mission was inspired by the couple’s respective careers in biomedical science and art history, as well as their personal experiences and appreciation for the opportunities offered to them as newcomers to the United States. In addition to its annual Prize, the Foundation also sponsors cultural programmes and organisations whose work aligns with their mission, and holds an art collection of American Modernist art.

The Foundation annually designates a field in which to award the Vilcek Prize for the arts and humanities, and for the first time since 2006, the 2017 edition is awarded in the category of Fine Arts. In 2018, the Prize will be awarded in Architecture.

Jan Vilcek, President and Co-founder and Marica Vilcek, Vice President and Co-founder of the Vilcek Foundation. Image courtesy The Vilcek Foundation.

Jan Vilcek, President and Co-founder and Marica Vilcek, Vice President and Co-founder of the Vilcek Foundation. Image courtesy The Vilcek Foundation.

The Vilcek Prize for Fine Arts 2017 winner: Nari Ward

Vilcek Prize winners each receive USD100,000 and a trophy, uniquely designed for each winner by Stefan Sagmeister. In 2017 the fine arts winner is Jamaican-born artist Nari Ward. The winner was selected by a jury comprising influential art world professionals, including Brooke Davis Anderson, Executive Director of Prospect New Orleans; Deborah Cullen, Director and Chief Curator of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University; artist Coco Fusco; Massimiliano Gioni, Artistic Director of the New Museum; Paul Ha, Director of List Visual Arts Center at MIT; and Sara Raza, curator at the Guggenheim.

Nari Ward was born in Jamaica and immigrated in the United States at the age of 12. He creates assemblages of found objects that address issues of race, immigration, poverty, consumer culture and the Caribbean diaspora identity. Ward broke into the New York scene in 1993, with an artwork entitled Amazing Grace, made with 365 abandoned baby strollers that he arranged with pieces of fire hose into the shape of a ship’s hull in a former firehouse on 141st Street in Harlem, accompanied by a recording of Amazing Grace sung by Mahalia Jackson, played on a loop throughout the space. The piece was a poignant commentary on the situation of the neighbourhood and its future, with its epidemic of illegal drugs and abandoned public spaces.

His more recent installation Naturalization Drawing Table features a large desk built out of Plexiglas bodega barriers. The desk is covered with dense linear drawings made over Immigration and Naturalization Service applications. On select days during the exhibition, viewers are invited to “apply” for naturalisation by lining up and filling out an application, to experience the bureaucratic process of applying for citizenship.

The Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in the Fine Arts 2017

The Vilcek Foundation has also established the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in the Fine Arts, awarded to three young immigrant artists in 2017, each receiving USD50,000. The winners are Egyptian-born Iman Issa, Meleko Mokgosi from Botswana and Colombian Carlos Motta. The Jury who selected the awardees includes Nicholas Baume
, Director and Chief Curator, Public Art Fund; Hitomi Iwasaki
, Director of Exhibitions/Curator, Queens Museum of Art; Naomi Beckwith, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Thomas J. Lax, Associate Curator, The Museum of Modern Art; and Rita Gonzalez
, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Vilcek Foundation Headquarters in New York City. Image courtesy The Vilcek Foundation.

The Vilcek Foundation Headquarters in New York City. Image courtesy The Vilcek Foundation.

A conceptual artist, Iman Issa creates objects and installations that attempt to address complex philosophical questions. She holds a particularly interest in the idea of monuments and memorial, which are seen as aesthetic forms with a shifting relevance based on their location in time and relationship to history.

Meleko Mokgosi is painter who before creating a work spends hours of research, reading and conversation with people. He composes depictions of Africa and its people, and is primarily interested in politics, seeking to understand and illuminate the relations of power that shape people, families, villages, regions and nations.

Carlos Motta works in a wide range of media, including film, performance, photography and sculpture. His work explores questions of identity, sexuality and politics, and attempts to identify and dissect the relations between an individual and the culture that forms them. Since his move to the United States in 1996, Motta has been exploring ideas of representation and the experience of democracy, the emotional underpinnings of political awareness, and the ways that dominant accounts of history have become biased.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: African artists, art prizes, art awards, art and migration, art and politics, news, events in New York

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