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Sotheby’s supports overlooked art through inaugural Prize

September 29, 2017

Sotheby's in London. Image credit: Sotheby's


Auction house Sotheby’s is showing its appreciation for the less mainstream art world through the inaugural edition of its Sotheby’s Prize.

Upcoming exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University are the first to win the annual monetary award, which helps to turn concepts into reality. This funding aims to assist curators in what can be an expensive and challenging process.

Art aid
International auction house Sotheby’s is pledging its support and encouragement of thought-provoking museum exhibitions and cultural initiatives through an annual prize.

The Sotheby’s Prize will be given in a sum of up to $250,000 to be used for funding for institutions, curators and museum directors’ ambitious projects. Nominees of the annual Sotheby’s Prize, as well as the inaugural winner, were selected by a jury of esteemed art figures to help facilitate future trailblazing exhibitions and initiatives in the cultural field (see story).

Following an outpouring of interest, which saw 92 applications from 15 countries, Sotheby’s jury ended up splitting the prize between two winners, giving each $125,000.

“The decision to split the prize was unanticipated and diverges from the original intention the jury had to honor one inspiring and transformative exhibition,” said Robin Woodhead, Sotheby’s Prize co-creator and chairman of Sotheby’s International, in a statement. “However, as the discussions evolved, it was concluded that two equally worthy landmark exhibitions will likely be propelled to fulfillment by sharing the Prize.”

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s upcoming “Many Tongues: Art, Language, and Revolution in the Middle East and South Asia” will focus on the cultural exchange between the two regions due to their shared experience of decolonization. This topic will be explored through more than 200 works dating back to 1947.

The winners of the inaugural Sotheby's Prize. Image credit: Sotheby's

Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art is also receiving half of the prize to help fund its “Pop América” exhibit, which aims to showcase some lesser known pop artists from Latin America. About 100 objects will be showcased, with works from U.S. artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein shown alongside Judith Baca, Luis Cruz Azaceta and Jorge de la Vega’s art.

Three other exhibits will each receive $10,000. These will be staged at the University of Pennsylvania, the Cummer Museum of Arts & Gardens in Jacksonville, FL and Bentonville, AR’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

“Each of the exhibitions we selected is dedicated to artists who, until recently, would have been considered peripheral to the mainstream story of the history of art, each representing a different cultural heritage and perspective,” said Allan Schwartzman, co-creator of the Prize and chairman and executive vice president of Sotheby’s. “The exhibitions all originate at American museums, but are dedicated to art from around the world.”