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The Aviva Art Award Goes to Little Warsaw, Emese Benczúr Wins the Popular Prize
Little Warsaw, Marble Street, 2000.

BUDAPEST.- The jury of the Aviva Award of contemporary art has deemed Little Warsaw – András Gálik and Bálint Havas – the best. A programme abroad prevented Little Warsaw from being present at the award ceremony on September 15 hold in Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest, where popular prize winner Emese Benczúr and the CEO of award-founder Aviva took part in a performance to create the trophy that bears the impression of their palms.

“The jury awards the prize to Little Warsaw, i.e. András Gálik and Bálint Havas, in recognition of their artistic activity in the past fifteen years. They have been active shapers of the local art scene with such context-creating initiatives as the Artwork of the week series, and they have explored the characteristic workings of remembrance and collective identity with relation to historical symbols and monuments in East-Central Europe , from perspectives that point beyond local conditions. The Aviva Art Award is an acknowledgement of their oeuvre to date, their successful exhibitions in Hungary and abroad, and their influence on the visual art scene in Hungary ,” claimed the jury in their decision.

The popular prize, worth 500,000 forints was awarded to Emese Benczúr , thanks to the 252 votes cast on her out of a total of 793.The award ceremony was the finale of a two-week display in Műcsarnok, which featured the works of the six nominees for the prize.

“It took a serious debate and several rounds for the six-strong jury to settle on a winner,” said art historian József Készman, one of the members. “According to the charter of the award, each member nominated one artist, while he or she could not cast their vote on the same artist during decision-making. The first shortlist contained three names, and the winner came out in the third round, with a majority of votes.”

What, ran the debate, should be acknowledged? Should the award be a recognition of a nominee’s oeuvre or their work in the past year (two aspects that counted strongly during nomination), or should it encourage future production, in view of the present performance? The jurors eventually agreed upon making the oeuvre the standard of judgement. One of the functions of the Aviva Award, says József Készman, is to facilitate the work of the winner in the future.

“It has been our long-cherished desire to acknowledge exceptional work by young artists with an award that is not state-founded. Beside this function of reward, the initiative of Aviva Life Insurance also serves to encourage artists to realize that the ever-dwindling government resources are not enough to support artists,” pointed out Műcsarnok director Zsolt Petrányi, who considers the Aviva Award to be of great significance, both in professional and financial terms.

Today, under-40 artists in Hungary have few opportunities to find financial support. Smaller awards founded by local governments have disappeared in recent years, and the chief hope for artists under 35 is the Derkovits Scholarship, which provides 960,000 forints annually, for three years – with the need to enter an application each year. With its 7000 euro prize in the junior category, the Prima Primissima Award is another important reward for young artists. “The prize money that goes with the Aviva Award, five million before taxes, is a very significant boost,” believes the director of Műcsarnok.

“Ever since its foundation, the Turner Prize, the most important acknowledgement for contemporary art in the UK , indeed in Europe , has been greatly responsible for inviting an ever-increasing interest in modern art. By joining this tradition, Aviva Life Insurance established the prize in the hope of it performing a function in the Hungarian contemporary scene that is similar to what the model does to British art,” said János Bartók, CEO and president of Aviva Life Insurance Co.

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