The ŠKODA Prize is fast becoming the most prestigious contemporary art award in the Indian visual art scene, featuring the work of younger artists across the country. Organisers aim to establish it as a major contemporary art award similar to the UK’s Turner Prize.

The ŠKODA Prize, 300x216. Image from culture

The ŠKODA Prize.

Navin Thomas wins with “From the Town’s End…”

Navin Thomas, following in the footsteps of the 2010 inaugural winner, Delhi-based Mithu Sen, won the much coveted second edition of the ŠKODA prize for the Best Solo Exhibition in Indian Contemporary Art. His show entitled “From the Town’s End…” mixed science and art in his creations. Thomas explained to The Indian Expressthat his “approach is not that of an activist, but simply of someone curious about the private life of your discarded electronic appliances”. At the awards ceremony, British artist Marc Quinn presented a prize of one million rupees (USD20,368) to Thomas. According to the Deccan Chronicle, the prize money will allow the young Bangalore-based artist to find a more functional studio space and pursue projects that he had to shelve for the lack of space and resources.

The ŠKODA Prize 2011 finalists. Clockwise: Navin Thomas; L.N. Tallur; Jitish Kallat. Image from

The ŠKODA Prize 2011 finalists. Clockwise: Navin Thomas; L.N. Tallur; Jitish Kallat.

The two runners-up, L.N. Tallur and Jitish Kallat were awarded residencies with Pro Helvetia (Swiss Arts Council). There were 128 entries from all over India and the three finalists were shortlisted from a longlist of twenty artists.

Breakthrough Artist Award

Building on the impact and success of the 2010 awards, the organisers aimed to lift the benchmark even higher from emerging to established artists and recognise talent from all aspects of the art industry.

Through a Lens Darkly, one of a series of photo by M. Mitra & M. Battacharya 800 x 500. Image courtesy from The Škoda

An image from photographer duo M. Mitra & M. Bhattacharya's series 'Through a Lens, Darkly'. © Madhuban Mitra & Manas Bhattacharya.

This year, they added another category, “The Breakthrough Artist Award”, which is an award for the most promising début solo exhibition. It was won by Kolkata-based Madhuban Mitra and Manas Bhattacharya. The exhibition, entitled “Through a Lens, Darkly“, is a series of reflections documenting the inevitable passage of time, people and technology at the country’s first and perhaps only still camera factory, National Instruments Ltd. in South Kolkata.

Vision and innovation

The ŠKODA Prize was initiated in 2010 by Seventy Event Media Group (EMG), recognising Indian artists under 45 who demonstrate “vision, innovation and mature understanding of material and form”. The principal sponsor is Škoda Auto India and other sponsors include the British Council and Pro Helvetia (Swiss Arts Council).

The jury included well-known figures in the art world such as Kiran Nadar of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art; artist Vivan Sundaram; Pooja Sood, Director of Khoj International Artists Association; Heike Munder, Director of Migros Museum Zurich; and Martin Clark, Artistic Director of Tate St Ives.

The Prize is backed by a dedicated group of advisers such as the well-known art critic and writer, Girish Shahane. According to The Hindu, Shahane said,

India is home to many a talented artist but the irony is that an artist is very rarely recognised in his own country…. The ŠKODA Prize will be an annual celebration of recognition of outstanding work in contemporary art in [India]. Each artist will be judged on the exhibitions or other presentations of their body of work produced in the twelve months preceding the award.

"Sound Installation" by Navin Thomas. Image credit: Hindustan Times

Navin Thomas, 'Sound Installation'.

Integral to the art scene

This year, the organisers highlighted the importance of cataloguing artists and artworks in order to build a repository of “cultural history” that would live on in “public memory for prosperity”. The ŠKODA Prize Top Twenty 2011 – 2012 was unveiled by eminent contemporary Indian artist Anjolie Ela Menon. She said in the Sunday Guardian, “These artworks represent the best of our younger artists. What they have achieved is commendable and I feel they have taken Indian art a great step further from where our generation left it.”

In addition, the three shortlisted artists had their work exhibited for public viewing at the Lalit Kala Akademi (National Academy of Fine Arts) in New Delhi. Martin da Costa, CEO of EMG explained the importance of holding an exhibition related to the art award. He said in the Sunday Guardian, “Around the world, contemporary art awards and their tie-in exhibitions, like the Turner Prize in the UK, attract millions of visitors. Such a scenario is missing in India and therefore, we need interaction between artists, the public and awards.”

The ŠKODA Prize is the largest and most prestigious award on the Indian visual art scene. Marc Quinn, guest of honour at the ceremony said that the event was now “integral to the Indian Contemporary Art scene“.


Related Topics: prizesIndian artists, emerging artists

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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