February 11, 2017 - The Vilcek Foundation - 2017 Vilcek Prizes in Fine Arts
February 11, 2017

The Vilcek Foundation

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

2017 Vilcek Prizes in Fine Arts
Visual artist Nari Ward receives main prize

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The Vilcek Foundation is proud to announce that the 2017 Vilcek Prize in Fine Arts is awarded to visual artist Nari Ward. The Vilcek Prizes are awarded in recognition of outstanding immigrant contributions to the arts and sciences, and include a 100,000 USD cash award.

Nari Ward was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the US at the age of 12. He is known for found-object assemblage artworks that address issues of race, immigration, poverty, consumer culture, and the Caribbean diaspora identity. His usage of found objects aims to highlight the history of a place and the urgency of the moment. His installation Naturalization Drawing Table, for example, features a large desk—built out of Plexiglas bodega barriers—covered with dense linear drawings made over Immigration and Naturalization Service applications. On select days during the exhibition, viewers are invited to “apply” for naturalization by lining up and filling out an application, giving them a sense of the bureaucratic process of applying for citizenship.

The Vilcek Foundation is also honoring three young immigrant artists who have demonstrated evidence of creative promise. Each winner of the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in the Fine Arts will receive a 50,000 USD cash award.

Iman Issa, a conceptual artist, creates objects and installations in an attempt to address complex philosophical questions. Her original area of study was phenomenology, a branch of philosophy that examines the structures of consciousness that organize subjective experience—or, put another way, how we take meaning from things we individually experience. Later, Issa realized that art allowed for nuanced exploration of those topics, and has continued her philosophical questioning through art. She is particularly interested in monuments and memorials—aesthetic forms tasked with a function that hold a shifting relevance based on their location in time and relationship to history. Issa was born in Egypt.

Meleko Mokgosi is a slow, considered painter; behind every painting he produces are hours of research, reading, and conversations with people. Mokgosi is interested in depictions of Africa and its people; he believes that the widespread misrepresentation of Africa and Africans has done a violence to the people of the continent, and through his art he attempts a representation that is fair and just. He is deeply concerned with politics, and seeks to understand and illuminate the relations of power that shape people, families, villages, regions, and nations. He was born in Botswana.

Carlos Motta works in a variety of media—including film, performance, photography, and sculpture—to explore questions of identity, sexuality, and politics, and to identify and dissect the relations between an individual and the culture that forms them. Since moving to the United States in 1996, Motta has become interested in questions of representation and the experience of democracy, the emotional underpinnings of political awareness, and the ways that dominant accounts of history have become biased. Motta was born in Colombia.  

The Vilcek Prize in Fine Arts was decided by 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 Giono, artistic director of the New Museum; Paul Ha, director of List Visual Arts Center at MIT; and Sara Raza, curator at the Guggenheim. 

The Vilcek Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. The mission of the foundation, to honor the contributions of immigrants to the United States and to foster appreciation of the arts and sciences, 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 they received as newcomers to this country. The foundation awards annual prizes to prominent immigrant biomedical scientists and artists, and manages the Vilcek Foundation Art Collections, a promised gift from its founders.

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