Teresa Margolles has been named the winner of the Artes Mundi 5 prize, from a shortlist of seven artists. Awarded by a panel of international curators and directors, the announcement was made at an evening ceremony at National Museum Cardiff on 29 November. With a first prize of 40,000 GBP, Artes Mundi is the largest cash prize awarded for the arts in the UK and one of the most significant in the world.
The Panel of judges, chaired by curator and broadcaster Tim Marlow, commended the work of all seven nominated artists, but were particularly struck by “the visceral power and urgency as well as the sophistication of her work in confronting an on-going human tragedy.”
Teresa Margolles’s work focuses on Northern Mexican social experience, where drug-related crime has resulted in widespread violence and murder. Since graduating with a diploma in forensic medicine, Margolles has examined the economics of death. Her sculptural interventions and performances often bring the physical reality and materiality of death to the fore, exemplified in her artistic intervention during the 2009 Venice Biennale in which the floor of the Mexican pavilion was mopped with water used to wash dead bodies from a morgue in Mexico.
In works featured in the Artes Mundi exhibition, death is a major theme. In Plancha, water which has been used to cleanse dead bodies in a morgue drips from the ceiling onto hotplates. Each drop evaporates on impact with a noticeable hiss. The work seeks to narrate the transition in death from present to absent, the processes of decomposition and ultimately honours anonymous lives that have been lost. 32 años, Levantamiento y traslado donde cayo el cuerpo asesinado del artista Luis Miguel Suro uses the tiles from the floor on which Luis Miguel Suro, a close friend and a promising young artist, was murdered in Guadalajara, Mexico. The displacement of these tiles brings the crime and violence associated with them inside the museum itself.
The international judging panel comprised Ute Meta Bauer, Dean of Fine Art, Royal College of Art, London; Adam Budak, International Curator for Contemporary Art, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC; Kathrin Becker, Head of Video Forum, nbk, Berlin; Karen MacKinnon, Curator, Glyn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea; Tim Marlow, Exhibitions Director, White Cube, London and Sabine Schaschl, Director, Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel.
Also announced was the Derek Williams Trust Purchase Award of 30,000 GBP. In association with Artes Mundi, the Purchase Award is used to acquire a work by one of the shortlisted artists for Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales contemporary art collection. It was awarded to Tania Bruguera for Displacement, 1998–99.
2012 marks a change for Artes Mundi, it will be founding board member William Wilkin’s last year as chairman. William Wilkins conceived Artes Mundi 12 years ago and retires after helping to facilitate many great achievements for both Artes Mundi and the contemporary visual arts in Wales. It was announced that Mathew Prichard would be the next Chair of the Artes Mundi Board. His wide experience of the arts in Wales and elsewhere will be a great asset in the future development of the Prize. It will also mark Ben Borthwick’s final Artes Mundi as Artistic Director and CEO. Borthwick joined the organization after seven years at Tate Modern and having delivered a successful Artes Mundi 5, will be leaving to pursue international curatorial projects.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch is principal sponsor of the Artes Mundi 5 Exhibition and Prize, which runs at National Museum Cardiff and Chapter until 13 January 2013. This year will also welcome the inclusion of an audience choice poll for the prize, allowing the public to vote for their favourite artist. The poll is open until the end of 2012 and the results of the poll will be revealed just before the close of the exhibition.
The 2012 shortlisted artists are Miriam Bäckström, Tania Bruguera, Phil Collins, Sheela Gowda, Teresa Margolles, Darius Mikšys and Apolonija Šušteršič.
Artes Mundi 5 runs at the National Museum Cardiff and Chapter until 13 January 2013. Admission is free.