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Sep 05 2019

Michael Rakowitz Named 2020 Nasher Prize Laureate

by Evelyn Goh

MICHAEL RAKOWITZ is the 2020 Nasher Prize Laureate. Courtesy Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas.

On September 4, Michael Rakowitz was announced as the 2020 Nasher Prize laureate by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, receiving a cash award of USD 100,000. The Iraqi-American artist was recognized for his “deeply considered vision of sculpture’s possibilities in the face of political and humanitarian crises,” according to the Center’s statement.

Rakowitz has garnered widespread acclaim in the past decade for his ongoing body of work The invisible enemy should not exist (2007– ), comprising more than 900 papier mâché reconstructions of artifacts that have been damaged or lost in Iraq. Initiated in response to the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad following the 2003 US-led invasion, Rakowitz’s project now also encompasses objects destroyed by ISIS, including the Nergal Gate lamassu sculpture, which the artist recreated out of date-syrup cans for his Fourth Plinth commission, unveiled at London’s Trafalgar Square in 2018. 

Rakowitz’s recent major solo exhibitions include surveys at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2017–18) and REDCAT, Los Angeles (2019). He has participated in international festivals such as Sharjah Biennial 14 (2019), the 12th Shanghai Biennale (2018–19), the 14th Istanbul Biennial (2015), and Documenta 13, Kassel (2012).

The artist was selected by a jury composed of renowned British sculptor Phyllida Barlow; Guggenheim curator-at-large Pablo León de la Barra; Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea; Lynne Cook, senior curator of Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; art historian Briony Fer; Hou Hanru, artistic director of MAXXI, Rome; Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; and Nicholas Serota, chairman of Arts Council England.

Nasher Sculpture Center director Jeremy Strick said of the decision: “The Nasher Prize jury has selected a laureate whose work wrestles in unique and revelatory ways with many of the complex questions of history, heritage, and identity that are so much at the forefront of contemporary culture and politics. Interrogating objects and materials—their history and associations—Rakowitz weaves dense webs of meaning in distinct bodies of work rich with insight and surprise.” 

Founded in 2016, the Nasher Prize is conferred annually to a living artist for outstanding achievements in sculpture. Previous laureates include Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo, French multimedia artist Pierre Huyghe, American installation artist Theaster Gates, and German multidisciplinary artist Isa Genzken. 

Evelyn Goh is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

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