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Japan Art Association Announces 2011 Praemium Imperiale Laureates in London
Anish Kapoor at his studio in London.

LONDON.- The 2011 winners of the prestigious Praemium Imperiale arts awards, announced today by the Japan Art Association in the ballroom of Claridge’s Hotel in London, include Academy and Tony Award-winning actress Dame Judi Dench, New Media artist Bill Viola and former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Seiji Ozawa. Carrying prizes of 15 million yen (approximately $182,000) each, the awards recognize lifetime achievement in the arts in categories not covered by the Nobel Prizes.

The Japan Art Association also named The Royal Court Young Writers Programme and Southbank Sinfonia as the co-recipients of its annual Grant for Young Artists award. Each of the London-based groups will receive an award of 2.5 million yen (approximately $30,000). The grant is presented to groups or institutions that encourage the involvement of young people in the arts.

The Praemium Imperiale awards ceremony will be held in Tokyo on October 19, where the Laureates will receive specially-designed gold medals and diplomas from His Imperial Highness Prince Hitachi, honorary patron of the Japan Art Association.

Prince Hitachi and Princess Hitachi joined Hisashi Hieda, chairman of the Japan Art Association, and British International Advisor Lord Patten of Barnes for the awards announcement in London, marking the first time their Imperial Highnesses have left Japan since the devastating tsunami in March. Following the announcement, Prince and Princess Hitachi and British Laureates Dame Judi Dench and Anish Kapoor were received by Queen Elizabeth II at a congratulatory reception in Buckingham Palace.

Candidates for the Praemium Imperiale awards are nominated by a distinguished panel of International Advisors and selected by the Japan Art Association. The American Advisor is William H. Luers, who currently serves as The George W. Ball Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and was formerly the President of the United Nations Association. He also previously served for 14 years as President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, following a 31-year career as an American ambassador and diplomat. This is Mr. Luers’ tenth year on the panel since succeeding David Rockefeller, Jr., who now serves as an Honorary Advisor.

“Over the past 23 years the Praemium Imperiale awards have grown to become a powerful symbol of the importance of the arts in the global community,” said Mr. Luers. “We are honored to recognize this year’s distinguished group of Laureates for their outstanding achievements and life-long pursuit of excellence.”

Other International Advisors include Lamberto Dini(Italy), François Pinault(France), Christopher Patten(UK), Klaus-Dieter Lehmann(Germany) and Yasuhiro Nakasone(Japan). In addition to David Rockefeller, Jr., other Honorary Advisors are Jacques Chirac, David Rockefeller, Helmut Schmidt, and Richard von Weizsäcker.

Last year, the Praemium Imperiale was awarded to Enrico Castellani (painting), Rebecca Horn (sculpture), Toyo Ito (architecture), Maurizio Pollini (music), and Sophia Loren (theatre/film). Previous Laureates have included: Ingmar Bergman, Leonard Bernstein, Peter Brook, Anthony Caro, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Jean-Luc Godard, David Hockney, Willem de Kooning, Akira Kurosawa, Arthur Miller, Renzo Piano, Robert Rauschenberg, Mstislav Rostropovich, Ravi Shankar and Stephen Sondheim.

The Praemium Imperiale was created in 1988 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Japan Art Association and to honor the late Prince Takamatsu, who served as the association’s honorary patron for 58 years.

The 2011 Praemium Imperiale Laureates are:

Bill Viola, USA

Born in New York City in 1951, Bill Viola is a pioneer of the genre of video art. His works, often referred to as “moving paintings,” have attracted global attention over the past 40 years. Early on, he saw the potential of creating a new form of contemporary art combining images, movement and sound to express the human condition in a new way. After studying visual art and electronic music at Syracuse University, Viola set up a studio at the university and, in 1972, joined a group exhibition in California with Wild Horses, his first public exhibition outside of the university. His works include videotapes, video installations, sound environments and television broadcast pieces. He often uses the elements of fire, water and light to explore the themes of birth, death and rebirth. In 1980, Viola married Kira Perov, beginning a lifelong artistic collaboration, working and travelling together. His major exhibitions include Bill Viola: The Passions, first shown in 2003, and Bill Viola: Hatsu-Yume (First Dream) at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo in 2006. Currently, he is completing a six-year project, creating two video chapels in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London set for completion in 2012.

Anish Kapoor, UK

British sculptor Anish Kapoor was born in Mumbai in 1954 and spent his childhood in India. Educated in London, Kapoor has been producing highly-acclaimed sculptural creations for more than 40 years. Often, his works are on a grand scale, featuring simple, curved forms, usually monochromatic and brightly colored. The awesome size of his pieces challenge perceptions through their scale and evoke mystery and emotion through reflective surfaces, dark crevices or distortions. In his early career, Kapoor was fascinated by pigment and would cover his works and the surrounding floor in colors, as featured in his first high profile show at the Hayward Gallery in London in 1978. Kapoor’s later works were made of solid, quarried stone, many with a carved-out aperture, alluding to dualities such as earth-sky, matter-spirit and body-mind. Recent works, like Sky Mirror (2001) and Cloud Gate (2004), use mirrored surfaces to reflect or distort the viewer and the surroundings. His newest piece Leviathan (2011), first exhibited in the Grand Palais in Paris, is simple yet monumental. Its complex engineering took two years and a team of 150 people from across Europe to create. Kapoor says that one of the principle jobs of art and the artist is to make things that in spite of all rationality remain mysterious.

Ricardo Legorreta, Mexico

The first Mexican artist to receive the Praemium Imperiale, Ricardo Legorreta was born in 1931 and educated in Mexico City. Arguably Mexico’s most significant living architect, he combines the traditions of Western modernism with the building culture of his native country, vibrantly colored geometric shapes, fountains, light-filled spaces and intimate courtyards are the hallmarks of Legorreta’s style. In a career spanning more than 50 years he has created a diverse portfolio of more than 100 projects in Mexico and abroad including the Montalban House in Los Angeles (1985), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey (1991), the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua (1993), Pershing Square in Los Angeles (1993), Carnegie Mellon College of Business & Computer Science in Qatar (2008) and Davidka Square in Jerusalem (2010). In 2000, he became the first Latin American to receive the prestigious American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Gold Medal. After a partnership with José Villagrán, he set up his own practice and now works with his youngest son, Victor.

Seiji Ozawa, Japan

Seiji Ozawa, born in Shenyang, China in 1935, is Japan’s most celebrated conductor. With a repertoire that ranges from the classics to late Romantics works to contemporary composers, Ozawa has thrilled audiences around the world during his distinguished career spanning more than 50 years. Ozawa gained international attention at age 24, winning first prize at the International Competition of Orchestra Conductors in Besançon, France. He then studied under Herbert von Karajan in Berlin and collaborated with Leonard Bernstein in New York, beginning a long and illustrious career in the United States. He has conducted top orchestras and opera companies in North America and Europe, but is best known for his extraordinary tenure as musical director of one of the world’s premier symphony orchestras, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for an unprecedented 29 years. In 1992, Ozawa fulfilled a lifelong dream by establishing Japan’s first international music festival, the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto. He plans a number of performances this year.

Judi Dench, UK

Born in 1934, Dame Judi Dench is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest actors. Starting her career as a Shakespearean stage actor, she is respected as an exceptional interpreter of classical and modern drama, tragedy and comedy. Dench made her professional debut in 1957 as Ophelia in Hamlet with the Old Vic Company, and played leading Shakespearean roles including Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and Isabella in Measure for Measure. In the 1970s and 80s, she established herself as one of the most significant performers with the National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company. She achieved popular success in the 1980s when she starred with her late husband Michael Williams in the television series A Fine Romance. She later appeared in the long running series As Time Goes By, and more recently in the period drama series Cranford. In film, she was cast as ‘M’ in Golden Eye (1995) -- a role she reprised in every James Bond film since. She gained international recognition as Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown, and won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love (1998). In addition to her Oscar, Dench has won six British Academy of Film and TV Awards (BAFTAs), and seven Laurence Olivier Awards among other accolades. At 76, she continues her active career with projects including the role of the mother of J. Edgar Hoover, founder of the FBI, in an upcoming Clint Eastwood film.

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