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Prominent Prizes Awarded to Artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection

This year, three artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection were awarded with two highly coveted art prizes. In the US, the Smithsonian American Art Museum presented the young African American artist Kara Walker with the Lucelia Artist Award. On the other end of the globe, the jury of the Praemium Imperiale in Japan decided on this year’s award winners: along with three other nominees, Georg Baselitz and Bruce Nauman were awarded for their life’s work with the most highly endowed art prize worldwide.

Lucelia Artist Award 2004 for Kara Walker

Her cutouts are anything but a harmless girl’s game: severed heads, young girls tumbling through the air and being penetrated by swans, black women and children forced into performing humiliating sexual acts with white men. The large-scale silhouettes of the African American artist Kara Walker are populated by figures invented by white America – images riddled with cliché and prejudice against the country’s black population, which looks back over centuries of slavery.(Read an db artmag interview with Kara Walker)

Kara Walker

In her works, the artist, who was born in 1969 in Stockton, California, combines visions of the history of the American South with her own ideas and experience. Upon closer look, the seemingly Romantic genre scenes from the “Golden Age” of the Deep South reveal themselves to be both drastic portrayals of a slaveholding society and a contemporary attempt at defining identity. The fact that Walker has frequently trespassed the boundaries of political correctness has often earned her sharp criticism. (Read the article Blasphemous Images at db artmag)

Kara Walker, whose work represented the United States at the 2002 Sao Paulo Biennale and has already been exhibited at Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, has now been honored with the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s 2004 Lucelia Artist Award. The jury’s decision states that “Kara Walker embodies the qualities that the Lucelia Artist Award seeks to reward – a commitment to creative innovation and the courage to be daring.” What is especially remarkable about her work is “it’s focus on the narrative [that] has also set her at the forefront of a current mode of contemporary visual expression. (…) Her imagery is looking foreward. She challenges older, prevailing positions. She gives evidence of fortitude and preserverance. She takes our expectations and stretches them to the limit.”

The $25,000 art prize, which has been awarded annually since 2001, is aimed at exceptional American artists under the age of 50.

Praemium Imperiale 2004 for Georg Baselitz and Bruce Nauman
An audience with the Japanese Emperor and Empress and 15 million yen each (ca. 114,000 Euros) await the winners of the Japanese Praemium Imperiale art prize. Also dubbed the “Nobel Prize of the Arts,” the award is the most highly endowed art prize worldwide. Among this year’s award winners, who were announced in early June in the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, are two artists from the Deutsche Bank Collection: the German painter Georg Baselitz and the American sculptor Bruce Nauman.

His upside-down paintings made him famous, yet Georg Baselitz, who was born in 1938, initially became known with a scandal: in 1963, the district attorney confiscated his painting Die große Nacht im Eimer (The Great Night Ruined, 1962/63) during

an exhibition in Berlin; its portrayal of a masturbating youth shocked the prevailing sensibilities of the time.

Georg Baselitz

Today, Baselitz is considered to be one of the forerunners of Neo-Expressionism of the 1980s; his work has left an indelible mark on modern German art. Nonetheless, the artist, who is active in both the areas of painting and sculpture, resists the classification of his work into a contemporary movement. The jury decision to award the German painter reads as follows: “In his career, Baselitz always sought the stylistic break with his past work. Moreover, his artistic power of imagination draws on the complete inventory of Western art and culture.”

Bruce Nauman, Photo: Nauman Studio

The work of the second award winner, Bruce Nauman, also resists clear categorization into a single artistic movement. The broad spectrum of media he uses, which ranges from holography to fluorescent lights to video, reflects the thematic variety of his oeuvre. The works of the artist, who was born in 1941, call the conditions of artistic production just as much into question as they investigate the human condition. In this sense, Nauman, whose exhibition Theaters of Experience was shown at the beginning of the year in the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, pushes his performance strategies to the limits of physical endurance to intensify the artist’s and viewer’s perception of self.

The expansion of his sculptural work to include performance was an aspect the award committee of the Praemium Imperiale particularly emphasized: “The performance-based work testifies to an investigation into our most basic emotions and psychological states.”

The beginnings of the award go back to the Japanese Prince Takamatsu, who was chairman of the Japan Art Association from 1929 to 1987. The prize, which strives to further international exchange and world peace and is financed by a foundation endowment and private sponsors, was called into being in 1988 in Takamatsu’s honor. Since then, the patronage of the Praemium Imperiale has been taken over by the Japanese Imperial Court. The award ceremony will take place in Tokyo on October 21.

The Praemium Imperiale, which is awarded in five different fields, was also awarded to three other artists: the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (1933), the Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami (1940), and the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (1907). All award winners were honored for their influence on international art and culture as well as for the social importance of their works.

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