|   The Hugo Boss Prize 2016: 20 years

The Hugo Boss Prize 2016: 20 years

Posted on Posted in Contemporary Art

The Hugo Boss Prize honors outstanding achievement in contemporary art, celebrating the work of remarkable artists whose practices are among the most innovative and influential of our time. The biennial prize—which marks its 20th anniversary this year—sets no restrictions on age, gender, nationality, or medium. Juried by an international panel of distinguished museum directors, curators, and critics, it is administered by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and carries an award of $100,000. Since its inception in 1996, the Hugo Boss Prize has been awarded to Matthew Barney (1996), Douglas Gordon (1998), Marjetica Potrč (2000), Pierre Huyghe (2002), Rirkrit Tiravanija (2004), Tacita Dean (2006), Emily Jacir (2008), Hans-Peter Feldmann (2010), Danh Vo (2012), and Paul Chan (2014). Work by each artist who receives the award is presented in a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The Hugo Boss Prize 2016 winner will be announced on October 20, 2016, and a solo exhibition of that artist’s work will be presented at the Guggenheim in the spring of 2017. The shortlist artists are: Tania Bruguera, Mark Leckey, Ralph Lemon, Laura Owens, Wael Shawky, and Anicka Yi.

The Hugo Boss Prize 2016 Nominees

Tania Bruguera, Hugo Boss Prize 2016 nominee, talks about her performance work and the concept of “artivism,” an art-making practice that challenges power. Bruguera discusses Tatlin’s Whisper #5 (2008), in which mounted police used crowd control techniques on museum visitors, and Immigrant Movement International (2010–15), a project run out of a storefront in Queens, New York.

Mark Leckey, Hugo Boss Prize 2016 nominee, discusses the complexities of his place in the British tradition of art and his interest in nostalgia, shared cultural references, and the “life” of objects. Leckey talks about Dream English Kid (2015), a work dealing with anxiety the artist felt as a child, and The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things (2013), an investigation into the idea that ordinary objects might have magical properties.

Ralph Lemon, Hugo Boss Prize 2016 nominee, discusses his art-making practice and what he calls the “tonality” of his work, which encompasses visual art, dance, and theater. Lemon talks about Scaffold Room (2014), as performed by Okwui Okpokwasili and April Mathis, and a long-term project he began in 2001 in Mississippi, working in collaboration with local residents.

Laura Owens, Hugo Boss Prize 2016 nominee, discusses her painting practice and explains her unique approach to the creative development of a new project, which sometimes starts with a word, found image, or site visit. Owens also talks about combining old and new painting techniques, using appropriated images, and experimenting with a wide array of mark-making materials and methods.

Anicka Yi, Hugo Boss Prize 2016 nominee, discusses her scientific approach to art making and the desire to create work that engages all of our senses, not just sight. Yi talks about the importance of narrative in her work and also touches on utilizing scientific processes and techniques, employing bacteria as a “paint” medium, and making perishable artworks.

Wael Shawky, Hugo Boss Prize 2016 nominee, talks about his interest in the idea of societies in transition and using history as a medium in his art. Shawky discusses Telematch Sadat (2007), a reenactment of the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in which children with no knowledge of the original event served as “actors.” He also talks about making his own marionettes for Cabaret Crusades (2010–15), a series of videos that reconsiders traditional narratives of the Crusades from an Arab perspective.

Timeline of the Hugo Boss Prize

The Hugo Boss Prize is established in 1996 by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and HUGO BOSS to “embrace today’s most innovative and critically relevant cultural currents,” according to Thomas Krens, then the director of foundation. Awarded every two years, the Prize is offered to artists with no limitations on nationality, medium, or age. The jury chooses approximately six finalists before the winner is selected and awarded a monetary prize, which today stands at $100,000.


Matthew Barney is the first winner of the Hugo Boss Prize. At the 1996 exhibition, Barney presents CREMASTER 1, the second installment in what would become an epic five-part film cycle in which the artist creates his own complex and fantastical symbolic system to consider themes of resistance, ambiguity, and sexual development and differentiation.


The Hugo Boss Prize aims to recognize artists from around the world working in diverse media. To that end, the jury—comprised of critics and curators—also reflects a wide range of interests and practices. Among the 1998 jury’s distinguished members are curator and art historian Hans-Ulrich Obrist; curator Okwui Enwezor, then artistic director of Documenta 11; and the esteemed art historian and curator Robert Rosenblum.


The work of Maurizio Cattelan, one of the finalists in 2000, is subsequently the subject of a Guggenheim exhibition in 2011–12: Maurizio Cattelan: All. The exhibition features the artist’s entire artistic output suspended from the ceiling in the space of the museum’s iconic rotunda. Known for his critiques of both cultural and political authority, Cattelan devises a gesture that rejects a traditional approach to the retrospective exhibition format, forgoing chronological or thematic groupings, didactic wall labels, or standard presentation on gallery floors and walls.



Winners of the Hugo Boss Prize are announced at the Guggenheim Museum during a celebration that often features well-known DJs, such as Sky Nellor, who is the party’s DJ in 2004; Sebastien Perrin in 2010; and Sean Drake, who is the DJ at the announcement party for the 2006 edition of the Prize.


Tortillas Construction Module, a work by Damián Ortega, one of the Hugo Boss Prize finalists in 2006, is included in the Guggenheim’s 2014 exhibition Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today. Ortega investigates commonly used objects for their political and social import. Tortillas Construction Module (now in the Guggenheim’s permanent collection) is a case in point. Treating scored tortillas as building blocks, Ortega creates a sculpture that could be assembled in multiple ways, suggesting the power of local solutions to flexibly respond to regional challenges.


One of the finalists for the 2008 Prize, Patty Chang, uses video and performance to critique Orientalizing images of Asian women and the expectation of female passivity. With In Love (2001)—a work in the Guggenheim’s permanent collection—she explores relationships between parents and children, with their inherent intimacies and disappointments. This dual-channel video features Chang with her father on one screen, and herself with her mother on the other. The videos show Chang and each parent as they bite into an onion, crying from its sting, and are played in reverse as if to travel back to the start of their relationships.


After winning the Prize, Hans-Peter Feldmann says, “When I heard I could make a show in one of the galleries here in the museum . . . I got the idea that I would like to show them the prize I won . . . because for a person of my generation a hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money and for an artist it’s even incredible. In the ’60s, ’70s, when I was socialized with art, there was no way to connect money with art. Artists were poor people and they never got any money for it, and the idea to win a hundred thousand dollars is something else, so I said I want to see the money on the wall all together.” For his exhibition, Feldmann pins a hundred thousand one-dollar bills to the walls of one of the museum’s galleries.


Guggenheim curator Katherine Brinson writes of the 2012 finalists, “The lion’s share of their practice often exists in the form of research, with the objects and images presented in their exhibitions existing as remnants of lengthy discursive investigations or social exchanges.” Tris Vonna-Michell’s Auto-Tracking (2009) illustrates Brinson’s point: Vonna-Michell assembles film, photos, and ambient sounds to create a narrative about the decay of Detroit and its role as symbol of American dystopia. When the work is presented at the Kunsthalle Zurich, the artist interacts with viewers so that together they add to a story about the Motor City that is part fiction, part fact.


Among the finalists for the 2014 prize is Indian artist Sheela Gowda, whose process-oriented, multimedia practice incorporates sculpture, installation, and photography. Gowda lives and works in Bangalore; her photographic and watercolor work Loss, now in the Guggenheim’s permanent collection, is part of the museum’s 2013 exhibition No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia.


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