The Baloise Art Prize 2017 is awarded to Filipino artist Martha Atienza and American Sam Pulitzer.
Awarded by the Baloise Group insurance company, the prize is presented annually to two young artists exhibiting in the Statements sector at Art Basel, selected by a jury of international art professionals.
The Baloise Group is an insurance company based in Basel, providing prevention, pension, assistance and insurance solutions with core markets in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. In Switzerland, the Group’s Baloise Bank SoBa also operates as a specialised financial services provider. The Baloise Group has a decades long commitment to the arts, and founded the Baloise Art Prize 19 years ago in 1999.
Awarded annually to two young artists, the cash prizes amount to CHF30,000 each and are presented in Statements at Art Basel, a sector within the art fair that is supported by the Group. The winners are selected by a jury of renowned art specialists, and the Baloise Group acquires bodies of works by the awardees to donate them to two leading European museums, which currently are the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the MUDAM, Luxembourg. The artists are also awarded a museum exhibition each. In total, each year the Group invests around CHF250,000 for the prize.
Past winners have become prominent artists in the international art world, and include among others Navin Rawanchaikul (2000), Annika Larsson (2001), Tino Sehgal (2004), Ryan Gander (2005), Haegue Yang (2007), Duncan Campbel (2008), Simon Fujiwara (2010) and Kemang Wa Lehulere (2013).
The Baloise Art Prize 2017
The members of this year’s jury are:
- Marie-Noëlle Farcy, Curator/Head of Collection, MUDAM, Luxembourg
- Daniel Baumann, Director, Kunsthalle Zurich
- Sven Beckstette, Curator, Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
- Zak Kyes, Zak Group, London
- Martin Schwander, Fine Art Advisor of Baloise, Chairman of the jury
The winners of the 19th edition of the Baloise Art Prize are Filipino artist Martha Atienza, exhibiting with Silverlens Gallery from the Philippines, and United States artist Sam Pulitzer, with Real Fine Arts from New York.
Martha Atienza won with her video installation Our Island, 11°16`58.4” 123°45`07.0”E, showing a traditional procession in the Philippines placed under water by the artist. Sam Pulitzer was awarded for “the precision, depth and virtuosity of the drawings presented in his installation” that enquires into “the function and meaning of the stream of new images, logos and labels” which influence our communication and relations to fellow human beings.
Martha Atienza was born in 1981 in Manila, and now lives and works between Bantayan Island in the Philippines and Rotterdam in the Netherlands. At Art Basel in 2017 she is exhibiting her video installation Our Islands 11°16’58.4”N 123°45’07.0”E in the Statements sector with Silverlens Gallery. Atienza is the third artist from Asia to win the Baloise Art Prize, after Navin Rawanchaikul in 2000 and Haegue Yang in 2007.
Our Islands 11°16’58.4”N 123°45’07.0”E reflects the artist’s relationship with island life, water and social rot. The installation comprises six screens with life-size projections of an underwater procession that moves from one wall to the next. The video depicts an underwater Ati-atihan, an ancient animistic festival and procession, Christianised by colonial influence. Ati-atihan means ‘like Aetas’, an indigenous group predating the Austronesian migration around 30,000 years ago. The traditional procession represents visions of reality and aspirations through the use of costumes, music and dance. Every year, Atienza films the Ati-atihan and adds some footage to her work Anito (2009-ongoing), the terrestrial basis combining the vibrant festival images to those of more pressing social issues on which the submarine version is based. Nowadays, natural and political violence has become part of the procession and the festival has transformed into an “annual record of victories and disasters, dreams and protests”.
The men in the video work wear costumes combining diverse sources, from the religious to the historical, such as Roman centurion skirts or Manny Pacquiao’s boxing gloves. Fully submerged under the sea, the subjects are presented as if in a trance, pushing against the current, incessantly walking forward. Heading the procession is a man dressed as the Santo Niño – the child Jesus and Patron of the Islands – carrying a doppelgänger statue, which he raises repeatedly with slow movements.
In the press release announcing the winners of the prize, the jury’s report on Atienza’s work reads:
Martha Atienza’s video installation, «Our Island, 11°16`58.4” 123°45`07.0”E», shows a traditional procession from her native Philippines, which she alienates by placing it under water. We watch the procession passing by as if in an aquarium: Christ carrying the cross, men in women’s clothes and demonstrators carrying tableaux with political slogans, threatened from behind by menacing, armed henchman. Through her cast of characters and choice of setting, Atienza presents a both critical and humorous take not only on the state of society in the Philippines but also on the threat of climate change to which the country is increasingly exposed through the warming of the world’s oceans.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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