NS Harsha Wins Artes Mundi Prize

UK India

Indian artist NS Harsha was awarded the £40,000 (USD 78,900) Artes Mundi Prize at a gala ceremony held at the National Museum Cardiff, Wales, on April 24. Artes Mundi is the largest international art award in the UK and is granted every two years to an exceptional emerging artist whose work focuses on the human condition and contributes to a greater understanding of humanity.

Described as an artist/philosopher and consummate storyteller, Harsha creates work that is concerned with locality, cultural traditions and the complexity of the rapidly changing world. The artist, who lives and works in Mysore, India, received his MFA from the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, Baroda, in 1995 and won a Sanskriti Award for emerging artists in 2003. Harsha skillfully uses the Indian tradition of miniature painting, blending astute observation of everyday life in India with global events. Come give us a speech (2007-08), a large, six-panel painting depicting hundreds of attentive figures sitting in chairs, was featured in the Artes Mundi 3 exhibition that ran through June 8 at the National Museum Cardiff. 

Tessa Jackson, artistic director of Artes Mundi, commented: “We are delighted that an artist that hasn’t been shown widely in the UK has been awarded the third Artes Mundi Prize, and that the judges recognized the different elements of Harsha’s work, from his paintings and installations to his work with children in communities,” referring to Harsha’s creative outreach projects with school children.

Other nominees for this year’s international art prize were Afghan video artist Lida Abdul, Abdoulaye Konaté from Mali, Australian multimedia artist Susan Norrie, Vasco Araújo from Lisbon, Romanian Mircea Cantor, Scottish duo Dalziel + Scullion and Rio de Janeiro-based Rosângela Rennó. The jury that selected Harsha included the prize’s first winner in 2004, Xu Bing, Sharjah Biennial director Jack Persekian, freelance curator Tuula Arkio and David Alston, arts director of Arts Council Wales.

The international art prize promotes the potential of the visual arts to communicate across cultural and geographic boundaries. With its large cash prize, the award is meant to foster independent artistic projects. As Jackson explained, “One of the benefits of winning the prize is that it enables the artist to make new work and develop new ideas away from the usual pressures an artist faces, giving the artist greater freedom to extend his practice.”