Jun 18 2014

Indian Artist Amar Kanwar Wins Creative Time’s Leonore Annenberg Prize

by Jacqueline Liu

Amar Kanwar, an Indian artist well known for his constantly evolving work “The Sovereign Forest” (2011– ), takes home the 2014 Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change. Photo by Jonty Wilde. Courtesy Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield.

On June 12, New Delhi-based artist Amar Kanwar was named winner of the 2014 Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change, an annual award that recognizes artists whose practice promotes social consciousness and an engagement with causes that advance equity and justice. The internationally acclaimed artist and activist is known for his intricate video essays which, developed from documentary practices, explore critical socio-political issues of the Indian subcontinent.

“The Sovereign Forest” (2011– ), Kanwar’s latest work and ongoing project, is an installation that focuses on the mining rights in Odisha, India. The work comprises a constellation of moving and still images and objects—texts, books, pamphlets, albums, music, objects, seeds—as well as events and processes. Brought together, the parts assembled prompt discussion and response regarding our understanding of crime, politics, human rights and ecology. The work has been presented in numerous contexts, including Documenta 13 (2012), the 11th Sharjah Biennial (2013), the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2012–13) and, most recently, in Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the United Kingdom (2013–14). The project is renewed and enriched with each showing by the addition of new works and with his prize earnings of USD 25,000, Kanwar plans to advance it even further, the results of which will be reveaed by Creative Time in 2015.

In a press statement, Laura Raicovich, Creative Time’s director of global initiatives, said that Amar Kanwar stands out “for the ways in which he pushes the narrative and technical limits of traditional documentary filmmaking to create works that simultaneously explore history, bear witness to the present, and connect the personal to the political in subtle, poetic ways.” Kanwar, who was selected from a pool of over 250 artists, will officially receive the prize on November 15 at the 2014 Creative Time Summit, which convenes in Stockholm this year.

Founded in 2009 by Creative Time, and supported by Creative Time board member Elizabeth Sorensen and the Rosenstiel Foundation, the Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change has previously been presented to artists such as Khaled Hourani, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Jeanne van Heeswijk and The Yes Men.